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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Weeks, Albert Loren, 1923–
Stalin’s other war : Soviet grand strategy, 1939-1941 / Albert L.
Weeks.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
9781461643494
1. Soviet Union—Foreign relations—1917–1945—Philosophy. 2.
Soviet Union—Military policy. 3. Communism—Soviet Union. 4.
World War, 1939–1945—Diplomatic history. I. Title.
DK268.5 .W44 2002
940.53’2247—dc21
2002001793

Printed in the United States of America

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Table of Contents

Title Page
Copyright Page
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 - Soviet Expansionist Ideology: Propaganda or Blueprint?
2 - Prewar Diplomacy and the Comintern
3 - The Soviets’ Pro-German Posture
4 - Nazi–Soviet Agreements (1939–40)
5 - Stalin Prepares for What Kind of War
6 - Stalin’s Response to “Barbarossa”—I
7 - Stalin’s Response to “Barbarossa”—II
8 - Conclusions
APPENDIX 1 - Stalin’s Third Speech, May 5, 1941
APPENDIX 2 - May 15, 1941, Memorandum
APPENDIX 3 - Stalin’s Speech to the Politburo, August 19, 1939
APPENDIX 4 - Russia’s New History Textbooks
Bibliography
Index
About the Author
Preface

The war is going on between two groups of capitalist states (the poor
vs. the rich ones in terms of colonies, sources of raw materials, and so
on) for a redivision of the world and for world domination! We’re not
opposed to the idea of their fighting among themselves very well. Nor
would it be bad if by the hands of Germany the position of the richest
capitalist countries were shattered (in particular that of England).
Hitler himself does not appreciate this fact nor does he wish to, but he
is demolishing and undermining the capitalist system.... On our part we
will maneuver while pitting one country against the other so that they
can fight each other all the better. The nonaggression pact to a degree
helps Germany. But in the next moment, it batters the other side.

—J. V. Stalin

The animus to write a book about such a controversial issue as Stalin’s


war plans 1939–41 arose as Russian archive information on the
problem has become increasingly available since the middle and late
1990s. Historians, like me, are learning more than earlier about Stalin’s
and the Red Army’s actions on the eve of the German attack against the
USSR on June 22, 1941. The disclosures in some cases throw into
question the conclusions drawn in the past by former-Soviet as well as
foreign historians. These interpretations formed a historiographic
consensus that now must be reexamined in the light of new evidence.
Above all, the most sensitive and misunderstood events and plans on
the eve of the war need to be clarified. This research involves in
particular the strategy Stalin and his generals had designed toward
Germany before Hitler ordered his Wehrmacht to launch its large-scale
“preventive war” attack in mid-1941. As Russian military historian
Pavel N. Bobylev, of the RF Ministry of Defense Institute for Military
History, has written: “While earlier discussion of this issue from 1991–
1993 permitted a more concrete appraisal than before of Soviet
planning for war against Germany, [documents since then] have now
led to a deeper understanding of the problem that for so long has been
obscured by ideological barriers.”1 Historian Mikhail I. Mel’tyukhov
adds:

The historians’ research conducted in the early 1990s


constituted a first step in reviewing the official views of the
events on the eve of the war. [Since the mid-1990s]
researchers now have access to documents that were once
kept secret [that] now demand new conceptions about the
participation of the Soviet Union in the events of 1939–
1941, a more objective depiction of our country’s history
during the period of World War II. [Using the new
documents] it is necessary to analyze the diplomatic activity
of the Soviet leadership in the 1920s and from 1939 to 1941,
to canvas its views toward the advent of the European war
[in September 1939], the military preparations undertaken
by the USSR as well as the contents of Soviet propaganda.“2

Previous pre-1995 military histories, whether published in Russia or


in the West, were thus hobbled, Russian historians note, by a lack of
primary-source documentation. Today information has become
available, among other places, in the 1998 two-volume compilation of
documents titled The Year 1941: Documents.3 Among the Russian
resources used in this book are the State Archive of the Russian
Federation (GARF); the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political
History (RGACPI); the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA); the
Russian State Archive on the Economy (RGAE); the Center for the
Collection of Contemporary Documents (TsKhSD); and the All-
Russian Scientific-Research Institute for Documents and Archive
Affairs (VNIIDAD).
Included among such “ideological barriers,” according to Bobylev
and other “new-generation” Russian historians, are the “slanted”
memoirs of and interviews with such senior officers of the Soviet Army
as Marshals Georgi K. Zhukov and Aleksandr M. Vasilievsky. Both
were major staff officer figures in the Soviet war, known as the Great
Fatherland War, against Germany, 1941–45. It is also true that a
conventional interpretation of Stalin’s war plans 1939–41 has
congealed among Western historians in ways that have discouraged
fresh interpretations of the dictator’s strategy. Complaints about this, in
fact, are leveled at Western and former-Soviet historians by some of
today’s Russian historians.
When discussing the mistakes made on the eve of the German attack,
these officers inevitably indicted Stalin. Yet Bobylev and others
observe that Red Army staff officers were not about to shoulder the
blame themselves for such a tragedy. Instead, they put the onus on the
deceased, de-glorified tyrant, Stalin. As a consequence, many Western
historians—writing on the war and relying on the same sources in
drawing their conclusions—likewise blame Stalin alone for the many
tragic miscalculations. As noted by Bobylev and other Russian
researchers, at the same time, it was Stalin who, after all, endorsed the
plans—many of which were seriously flawed—when they were
submitted to him by General Staff officers such as Generals Zhukov,
Vasilievsky, and Kirill A. Meretskov and Marshals Semyon K.
Timoshenko and Boris M. Shaposhnikov (their ranks before June
1941). Ultimately, the Soviet dictator must bear the responsibility for
approving the mistaken concepts and plans. Yet, as it turns out, it had
been an overconfident, miscalculating, and in part sycophantic military
that in the main had devised the errant plans and had exaggerated the
readiness of the Red Army for combat. Doubtlessly, they were
motivated by fear of the dictator, who did not hesitate to purge and spill
the blood of his top commanders, often in an arbitrary, unprovoked
way. Moreover, the plans submitted to Stalin by his most trusted
professional soldiers appealed to the Soviet leader, as cautious as Stalin
tended to be, because of their audacity and because of their Bolshevik-
style “offensiveness” (нacmynameлЬнocmЬ or nastupatel ‘nost’).
Stalin himself and his military indoctrinators, after all, repeatedly
touted “offensiveness” as the Red Army’s most distinctive feature. So
wedded were they to this concept of waging offensives on enemy
territory and reaping the advantages of surprise attack that they
seriously neglected designing necessary defensive (oборонителЬние,
or oboronitel’niye) strategies and defense-oriented preparations for the
Red Army. This is all but admitted now by contemporary Russian
historians and even by some latter-day defense officials (e.g., in a long
article appearing in mid-2000 in a major Russian military publication
written by the current chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army,
General Anatoly Kvashnin).4 In any case, retreat was out of the
question for the mighty, well-motivated Red Army, whose mission was
“revolutionary” and “world historical,” not simply traditional war
fighting alone based on conventional principles of armed struggle.
Among the several, newly disclosed documents of the last few years
up through the year 2000 that call for a reassessment of the conclusions
previously drawn in earlier discussions of the prewar period are the
texts of Stalin’s address and remarks made to the graduating Red Army
military cadets, May 5, 1941; the texts of Red Army strategic plans, in
particular that of May 15, 1941, and their later “refinements”; and the
telltale orders issued from the General Staff for secret, well-
camouflaged deployments of Red Army troops to the Western Front in
the run-up to the fatal day of June 22, in which defensive preparations
are not even given as one of the Red Army’s main tasks but, instead, in
which offensive troop concentrations and tactics are paramount.
The preparation of this book has been further sourced by a
comprehensive, well-documented, 600-page study of the pre-June 1941
Red Army, Navy, and Air Force war preparations as canvassed in the
new book by Russian military historian, Mikhail I. Mel’tyukhov of
VNIIDAD. Together with Bobylev and other “new historians”—
whether Russian, French, German, or American—all such historians are
cited in the pages that follow.

NOTES
Stalin’s documented remarks in the epigraph are quoted in F. I. Firsov,
“Arkhivy Kominterna I Vneshnyaya Politika SSSR v 1939–1941”
(”Archives of the Communist International and the Foreign Policy of
the USSR 1939–1941”), Novaya i Noveishaya Istoriya, no. 6 (1992), pp.
18–19.
1 P. N. Bobylev, “Tochku v diskussii stavit’ rano. K voprosu o
planirovanii v general’nom shtabe RKKA vozmozhnoi voiny s
Germaniyei v 1940–1941 godakh” (“Calling an Early Halt to the
Discussion about the Problem in the General Staff of the RKKA on
Planning a Possible War with Germany from the Years 1940–1941”),
Otechesvennaya istoriya, no. 1 (2000), pp. 41–64. Bobylev also takes
Viktor Suvorov (Vladmir Bogdanovich Rezun, a Russian émigré living
in London) to task for the distortions in his writings of 1989–90,
including his 1990 book, The Ice-Breaker Who Started the Second
World War? and notes that Suvorov, in any case, was not the first to
search for offensism in Stalin’s and the Red Army’s war planning
against Germany.

2 M. I. Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina Sovetskyi Soyuz I


Bor’ba za Yevropu 1939–1941 (Stalin’s Lost Opportunity: The Soviet
Union and the Battle for Europe 1939–1941) (Moscow: Veche, 2000),
pp. 7, 9. This book, running 600 pages, is the most comprehensive
study to date on the period under examination. Its author is a post-
Soviet historian on the staff of the All-Russian Scientific-Research
Institute for Documents and Archive Affairs (VNIIDAD), founded in
1966. Mel’-tyukhov has contributed chapters and articles to a number
of books and scholarly history periodicals in Russia.

3 A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 God. Dokumenty (The Year 1941:


Documents) (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi Fond Demokratiya, 1998), 2
vols. Russian historians describe these volumes as crucial in updating
discussion of the pre-June 1941 preparations and other relevant events.

4 Anatoly Kvashnin and Makhmut Gareyev, “Sem’ Urokov Velikoi


Otechestvennoi” (“Seven Lessons from the Great Fatherland War”),
Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye (April 28-May 11, 2000), pp. 1–3.
Acknowledgments

I wish to express my gratitude for the inestimable cooperation and


critical input of a number of people as follows.
Without the support and confidence placed by Ms. Mary Carpenter
of Rowman & Littlefield in me and my manuscript, this book would
not be in readers’ hands. I am deeply indebted to Ms. Alyona
Mossounova in Moscow for her generous work in corralling and
reproducing for me numerous Russian journal articles, especially given
the small ways in which she selflessly allowed me to “repay” her.
A number of Russian and American scholars and authors helped me
in the preparation of this book—either via one-on-one exchanges or
indirectly through their own research and their valuable books.
Especially helpful in this respect were Yuri Afanasiev, Pavel Bobylev,
David M. Glantz, Oleg Kalugin, Mikhail Meltyukhov, Lev Navrozov,
Vladimir Nevezhin, Richard C. Pipes, R. C. Raack, Ellsworth Raymond,
Harriet F. Scott, and Gerhard L. Weinberg.
Others lent various types of indispensable support, whether logistic,
bibliographic, or moral. They include my close friend, Fred Duda;
Linda Hunsaker Hardman of the Kimbrough Memorial Library at the
Ringling School of Art and Design; Molly Molloy of the Hoover
Institution and Thomas Titura.
Introduction

As long as capitalism exists and socialism exists, we cannot


live in peace. In the end, one or the other will triumph. A
funeral dirge will be sung either over the Soviet Republic or
over capitalism.

—V. I. Lenin

Bolshevism cannot evade responsibility for perpetrating


falsehoods unheard of in history . . . for fostering criminal
ideas of force and violence, class struggle, dictatorship of
the proletariat, revolution, [and] for the militarization of the
country.

—A. N. Yakovlev, former Communist Party Secretary for


Propaganda

[Revolution in Russia] did not lead to national harmony but


to catastrophe and genocide. Anyone who forgets the past is
destined to repeat it over and over.

—V. P. Ostrovskyi, post-Soviet Russian high school


textbook author
The demise of communist rule in Russia in 1991 triggered intense
discussion about depictions of the past as boilerplated in Communist
Party–guided Soviet historiography. With the partial opening of
archives of Soviet civilian, military, and security police authorities, the
contents of the Orwellian Memory Hole, to which so many historical
truths were committed in the Stalin period, began to be exhumed. As a
result, wholesale revisionism has been sweeping through Russian
historical science for the past ten years. In this process almost no stone
has been left unturned. One of the great “white spots,” as Russians call
intentional omissions in the Soviet historical record, concerns Josef
Stalin’s and the Red Army General Staff’s intentions and plans during
and after the signing of the crucial Nazi–Soviet agreements of August–
September 1939. Included are secret protocols drawn up and signed by
the governments of Berlin and Moscow sixty-two years ago, whose
very existence was disingenuously denied by former Soviet authorities,
including Mikhail Gorbachev. Since roughly 1994–95, even more
revealing documents have surfaced as various Russian archival
holdings are made available to working historians. Western historians
have still not caught up with the new disclosures that date from 1996 to
2001.
A prevalent school of thought among Russian and Western historians
hews to the conventional line that has dominated history books in the
USSR and abroad up until only recently. Based largely on Soviet-
controlled documents, this interpretation insists, namely, that Stalin’s
military policy from 1939 until the German invasion of the Soviet
Union, on June 22,1941, was largely defensist. That is, Stalin and the
General Staff harbored no offensive or “preemptive,” military-oriented
Grand Strategy vis-à-vis Germany or against any other prospective
capitalist enemy. In the prewar years up to June 1941, Stalin intended
merely to keep the USSR as long as possible out of a new world war—
predicted by Marxism-Leninism as “inevitable.” In this way, it is
argued, the Soviets would have time to build up their defenses in the
expectation of a coming global conflict that sooner or later would
likely engulf them as hapless victims like Hitler’s other dupes. Among
such defensive moves, the “defensist” school maintains, were the
Soviet territorial acquisitions of 1939–40. These annexations consisted
of half of Poland, which included territory added to Soviet Ukraine and
Byelorussia; all of the Baltics; part of Finland; and northern Bukovina
and Bessarabia at Rumania’s expense. Termed a “buffer zone” by the
defensists and Soviet-period apologists, these territories were not the
fruit of a deliberate Soviet expansionist policy, they claim. Rather, the
annexations and sovietizations added up to merely protective measures
wisely taken by Stalin as insurance against the day of a German
invasion. That these territories remained parts of the USSR after World
War II is deemed by some historians, strange to say, as all but
irrelevant. Interestingly, the defensist argument about Soviet Russia
was also given out by orientation officers to U.S. soldiers in World War
II.1 These officers used such reference manuals as The USSR
Institutions and People: A Brief Handbook for the Use of Officers of the
Armed Forces of the United States. “The Nazi–Soviet Pact,” says the
handbook,

was accepted by the Soviet people as an act of wisdom


[gaining time] for them . . . in which to prepare for the Nazi
attack which came in June 1941.... Soviet-advocated
measures failed largely because the democratic powers
mistrusted the Soviet Union. [The Soviet people felt] that
the overtures made to the Soviet Union by Great Britain and
France in the summer of 1939 lacked a basis for realistic and
effective measures against Germany.

The same orientation pamphlet describes the USSR as a democracy and


fatuously claims that Josef Stalin was the “elected” leader in the
Western sense.
The invasion, an unforgivable “double cross” (вeроломcмво, or
verolomstvo, in Russian), took Stalin by surprise precisely, it is alleged
by this school, because he had been tricked into allowing Soviet Russia
to become a “sitting duck,” a “dupe.” Foolishly, he had fully trusted his
alliance with Hitler even as the latter so obviously deployed German
invasion forces all along the Soviet western frontier by spring 1941.
Stalin, moreover, blithely ignored the warnings of an attack proffered
to him secretly by Roosevelt and Churchill (exploiting top-secret
intelligence gleaned from Enigma Machine/Ultra decoding of German
General Staff encrypted traffic) and by Stalin’s own best foreign
agents. One of the latter even predicted the date of the invasion.
Stalin, in any case, distrusted the Western powers, those duplicitous
“Munich appeasers.” The latter, it is alleged, had refused serious Soviet
overtures to build collective-security guarantees against Axis
expansionism. Yet, as we shall see, new documents indicate that Stalin
preferred to strike a deal with Hitler than one with the scorned “Anglo-
French bloc.” (For Stalin’s observations about this, which have been
kept secret until recently, see appendix 3.)
The offensists, on the other hand, attempt to rebut the conventional
image of Stalin’s alleged ignorance of Hitler’s plans. They claim that
the Soviet dictator was well aware of Operation Barbarossa. But if he
was aware and in what detail he was aware have yet to be fully
supported by classified documents. (There are, after all, “white spots”
within the released archival material itself. Many Russian researchers
and historians complain that they have been given access only to a
portion of the truth.) He erred in thinking Hitler would not get the jump
on the Red Army, which had developed its own offensist plans.
Having earlier (mid-1930s) pursued a policy of joining the League of
Nations and defining and touting the principles of nonaggression and
collective security with England and France against Nazi Germany,
Stalin—who at this stage thrust forward Maxim Litvinov to instrument
this “peace-minded” policy—sought seriously, it is alleged in
conventional as well as Soviet party-line histories, to curtail Hitler. He
attempted by 1938–39, it is claimed, to align the USSR with the
Western capitalist democracies.
However, recent research, as we will see, raises questions as to the
sincerity of Stalin’s putative intentions concerning serious collective-
security arrangements with the West European capitalist states.
Incidentally, the same Litvinov, as Stalin’s commissar of foreign
affairs in the early 1930s, who early on had changed his name from
Vallach to Litvinov, was, ironically, instrumental himself in paving the
way toward Nazi–Soviet rapprochement (see chapter 2).
Accordingly, at this time Stalin ordered Western Communist parties
to adopt the Popular Front tactic. But the line was promoted always
with the caveat that it was a means of enhancing communist
opportunities for seizure of power in the given countries. Stalin, claims
the defensist school, on the other hand, was frustrated in this putatively
sincere endeavor to form a bloc against “fascism” (as Soviet ideology
called Nazism and Italian Fascism). England and France, they claim,
refused to cooperate in establishing collective security with the Soviets.
The Anglo-French bloc was motivated, defensists say, by the hope that
Germany and Russia would embroil themselves in war. As one
defensist-minded American academic has written, the Western powers
were blindsided by their hatred and fear of communism, even more
than the Soviets were misled by their anticapitalist ideology. As he puts
it, “Ideologically-derived perceptions [on the part of England and
France] shaped the behavior of the Western leaders to a greater extent
than they did Soviet policy.” 2 Such perceptions, the historian alleges,
frustrated Moscow’s proposals for collective security.
Because of Western suspicions, this writer continues, reflecting a
consensus among many historians, the Franco-British Munich
appeasement policy evolved into abandonment of the Soviet’s principal
central European ally, Czechoslovakia. Out of frustration, Soviet
pursuit of collective security, therefore, was given up by Stalin.
Litvinov himself, a symbol of collective-security policy, was
abandoned by Stalin in early 1939. He was demoted, significantly, well
before Western envoys had given up coming to Moscow to try to work
out a deal in the summer of that year.
The rigid, orthodox aide closest to Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov,
thereupon took over the reins of foreign affairs from the talented,
trusted Jewish Old Bolshevik. The Soviets, it was then perceived by
some, would now look out for themselves while pursuing bare-
knuckled Realpolitik. Yet, it is claimed, for all that, Stalin’s policy
remained one of defense, not offense. This defensive policy, it is
alleged, remained in force right up to the German invasion of the USSR
on June 22,1941.
In contrast to this line of argument, the second, or offensist, school
presents fresh evidence that strongly indicates that Stalin all along was
secretly plotting an offensive war of his own—above all against
Germany but ultimately against all of “capitalist-imperialist” Europe.
This second, secret—or “other”—war was to be waged after the
capitalist countries had mutually destructed each other in a “big war,”
as Stalin called it. This was Stalin’s “great dream,” says the Russian
historian and biographer Edvard Radzinsky.3 As Molotov observes of
“big wars” in his interviews with Felix Chuev in the 1980s, referring to
Stalin’s view of the two world wars and a future world war: “Stalin
looked at it this way. World War I has wrested one country from
capitalist slavery. World War II has created a socialist system. A third
world war will finish off imperialism forever.”4
Indeed, Stalin told a high Yugoslav Communist Party official,
Milovan Djilas, just after World War II: “We will have another go at
it,” meaning World War III. With this third “big war” would come
further expansion of Sovietism worldwide. During the Korean War
(1950–53), which was an attempt to hit at capitalism’s rear in the Far
East, the Soviet representative to the UNO, Yakov Malik, was quoted
on the front page of The New York Times on February 3, 1952, as
stating with ideological sangfroid: “World War III has already begun.”
War—in this case in Korea—and revolutionary expansion worldwide
obviously were two sides of the same coin. Indeed, post-Soviet archival
material shows that Stalin did in fact have global expansionist aims as
far as the Korean War was concerned, as revealed in top-secret
messages exchanged between Moscow and Beijing and Pyongyang in
the winter of 1949–50. “The East Is Red” became more than a catchy
title for a video documentary on the period.
Statements, secret or open, made by leading officials and the
Soviets’ own military planning all point undeniably in the offensist
direction, it is claimed by these historians. Such evidence includes
Stalin’s secret speech to the military graduates and his remarks at their
reception, May 5, 1941, which rattled offensive sabers (see appendix 1
for the full text of one of the key Stalin speeches at the ceremony); two
successive, pre–June 1941 Red Army field manuals containing
exclusively offensist principles of combat while all but totally ignoring
defensive ones; and a significant military strategy paper, or
memorandum, addressed to Stalin, May 15, 1941, by the Red Army’s
topmost staff officers (Vasilievsky, Timoshenko, and Zhukov) that
explicitly advocates preemptive war (see chapter 5 for discussion of the
above as well as appendix 2, containing key sections of the
memorandum). There are other clues as well.
The defensists counter that there is no proof Stalin ever saw the
military document. But the new historians pointedly ask whether the
three topmost Red Army generals would have dared to make such
recommendations to Stalin if they did not think he agreed with them.
Not long before, the dictator had bloodily purged the General Staff; no
one dared thereafter to propose anything that would alienate the
capricious Stalin. If offensist principles did not harmonize with Stalin’s
own views, what professional staff senior officer would dare challenge
Stalin on such a crucial matter? Obviously, the staff officers were
certain that Stalin would accept their recommendations.
On their part, defensist authors, not having the latest documents in
hand, have pointed out that even if Stalin did read the staff officers’
memorandum and even if its proposal did dovetail with Stalin’s
offensist-oriented remarks of May 5, subsequent military orders and
actual deployments along the western frontier facing German-held
territory do not suggest a full-fledged offensist posture. This dubious
claim is reiterated in a sweeping analysis that appeared recently in the
pro-government Russian military press, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye
Obozrenie (Independent Military Review), issue of April 28–May 11,
2000, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II. The
analysis is written by the present Russian Federation chief of the
General Staff and deputy minister of defense, General Anatoly V.
Kvashnin, and the former Soviet deputy minister of defense and
prominent military strategist, General Makhmut A. Gareyev. Their
conventional observations, though reserved, are quite predictable.
(Evidence that questions these writers’ line on pre-Barbarossa Red
Army deployments is examined in chapter 5.)
On the ideological front, the revisionist offensists refer back to
Lenin’s “Report on Peace,” November 8, 1917. The Soviet leader had
then called on the Western “laboring and exploited masses” to end their
nations’ participation in war (World War I). They were to follow the
Soviet example, “emancipate” themselves “from all forms of slavery
and exploitation.” The socialist “new order,” Lenin continues, “will not
be bound by treaties.” We have “lit the torch of world revolution,” he
writes in the draft of the first post-1917 program of the Russian
Communist Party (Bolsheviks). The Soviets will “carry the revolution
into the most advanced countries and in general into all countries.” In a
speech on March 7, 1918, Lenin declared: “History marches forward on
the basis of liberation wars.”
Such was the impetus for the Red Army’s invasion of Poland in 1920
and earlier and later attempts in those years to sovietize Germany,
Hungary, and other East European as well as Baltic states. Lenin said
that the war against Poland in 1920 was intended to carry Bolshevik-
style revolution and sovietization all the way to Berlin. With reference
to that war, Russian historians of the offensist persuasion cite the
recently published (in Russia) Lenin stenogram, under the title “Ya
proshu zapisyvat’ men’she: eto ne dolzhno popadat’ v pechat’” (“I
Intend to Write Less Lest It Fall into the Hands of the Press”). In it
Lenin predicts in 1920 that with Poland sovietized, the Red Army
would be deployed at Germany’s very borders. Thus positioned, it
could then wage an “offensive war,” Lenin says, against the West,
eventually carrying “liberation war” into the whole of Europe. “We will
impress on the workers,” he declares, “that a new level of revolutionary
activity has arrived.... We will exploit every opportunity [from our base
in Poland] to go from defense to offense.... We will learn how to wage
offensive war.”5
Such statements were often made by top Soviet officials right up to
June 22, 1941. The question that is sometimes raised is whether such
declarations constituted the actual underpinnings for concrete Red
Army military strategy. It would appear that they were fundamental to
military policy to judge by the writings in the 1920s of such Soviet
military thinkers and commanders as Generals Triandafillov, Isserson,
and Tukhachevsky. These officers not infrequently extolled export of
revolution with the help of the Red Army.
Basic Leninist principles were never abandoned, claim the
revisionist offensists. They note that with the establishment of the
Comintern in 1919, Lenin’s long-nurtured dream of encouraging global
sovietization began to be realized in practice with the founding of this
“General Staff of World Revolution.” As a result, Soviet diplomacy
began to run on “two tracks”: one appearing as formally, legalistically
“diplomatic” and conventional; the other, unconventional, illegal, and
subversive, serving Marxist-Leninist goals of revolutionary
expansionism worldwide. Perhaps the best metaphor for expressing the
twofold, duplicitous nature of Soviet foreign policy and behavior in the
international arena is an iceberg. The visible portion consisted of
“legalistic” diplomacy (especially when aimed at developing trade and
aid favorable to the USSR) and talk of “peaceful cohabitation” (later
phrased “peaceful coexistence”) for the purpose of gaining time (in
Sovietese: a “breathing space”—peredyshka) while misleading the
“deaf, dumb, and blind” enemy by “lulling him asleep.” The latter
tactics were commended by a high Comintern official as well as by
Lenin. In this way, Soviet power worldwide would be enhanced along
with abetting the global, revolutionary cause of sovietization, the two
working together. The larger, submerged portion of the iceberg
consisted of global subversion via legal or illegal Communist parties
organized within countries throughout the world. These fifth-column
forces, infiltrated into all layers of society in the given capitalist or
Third World countries, served, to use Stalin’s later phrase of 1952, as
international “shock brigades.”
Trotsky once made an apt comment on the defensist appearance the
Soviets should sport publicly in the form of propaganda: “The
offensive . . . develops better the more it looks like self-defense.”6
Throughout most of Soviet history, this principle lay at the heart of the
“operational art” of Kremlin-style diplomacy.
The defensist school recognizes the above but only to an extent.
First, it supports a “realist” view toward ideology (see chapter 1). This
view places ideological “posturing” outside the circle of day-to-day
policy making. It describes the official ideology of Marxism-Leninism
as virtually irrelevant. Second, it diminishes the importance of the
Comintern. It regards this unique organization as little more than a toy
pistol brandished by Stalin that, in any case, he dispensed with by the
war year of 1943 after years of “neglect.” Yet, although ignored by
those observers who question the importance of the Communist
International, after the Comintern was disbanded, Comintern-like
activities continued. They were taken over by the Central Committee’s
Information and International Department (which later split in the
1970s into two departments, one for information, the other for
sponsoring international expansionism). (The post-World War II
“Cominform” also acquired some of the former Comintern’s tasks.)
Ex-Communist International Executive Committee secretaries and
officials were duly transferred to these departments in Moscow. Among
them was Georgi Dimitrov, former general secretary of the Comintern,
who after his death was followed by the well-known chief of the
International Department during the Brezhnev era, Boris N.
Ponomarev.
Post-1991 archive documents show that the investments in this
“internationalist” enterprise cost the Soviets triple-digit billions of
rubles during the seventy-plus years of such obviously serious, global
subversive activity. It has been estimated that the Soviets spent on
average some $1.5 billion per year on subsidizing foreign subversion
and its accomplice, international guerrilla warfare and terrorism. As the
armed components of Marxist-Leninist “internationalism,” they were
tasked with preparing the way for Soviet-style socialism via guerrilla
armed actions and armed seizures of power.
In the heyday of the Comintern, Soviet national expansionist
interests would be abetted by Soviet peace-mongering propaganda. This
was tasked to weaken Western defenses. “Both you and I,” Lenin
reminded Commissar of Foreign Affairs Chicherin, “have fought
against pacifism.... But where, when, and who denied the exploitation
of pacifists by this party in order to demoralize the enemy?” Using
Soviet Orwellian “newspeak,” the Theses of the Sixth World Congress
of the Comintern (1928) put it this way—“dialectically”:
“Revolutionary war by the proletarian dictatorship is but the
continuation of a revolutionary peace policy.”7
Such activity was combined with outright sabotage within the given
countries—for example, as against British, French, and the U.S.
defense factories during the Nazi–Soviet “honeymoon” of 1939–41. As
detailed in the Mitrokhin Archive, disclosed in 1999, the subversives
likewise would serve as sleeper forces waiting to be called into action
by Moscow Center in case of war in the name of socialism. In times of
war or peace, they would prepare the ground for Soviet-style takeovers
whether by countries or by regions.
The offensist historians, researching newly disclosed archive
documents, further maintain that Stalin actually hoped for war, viewing
it as he did as the “midwife” of revolution. In that way, revolution
could be “exported on the tips of bayonets,” as Soviet spokespersons
and military hawks openly declared in meetings of the Comintern in the
1920s and 1930s. In early 1940 the Soviet leader relished—indeed,
encouraged—German expansionism against France, the Lowlands,
Britain, and Norway. Shipments of war materiel through Brest-Litovsk
on its way to Germany continued in gargantuan amounts right up to the
Soviet–German war beginning in late June 1941. Moscow even broke
off diplomatic relations with the governments of these West European
countries out of respect for Hitler’s conquests.
Stalin stated openly to aides that he hoped to see all the “capitalist-
imperialist” combatants self-destruct. In the Far East, Japan, Stalin
said, would likewise become embroiled in a war with the United States,
the advent of which would also serve Soviet interests by debilitating
that distant capital-imperialist enemy. Stalin was informed by agents in
Tokyo of plans for the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack of December 7,
1941, but kept this information from the Americans, despite British and
American Lend-Lease aid that had already begun to be shipped to the
Soviets almost immediately after the German attack of June 22, 1941.
Stalin still thought and spoke openly in this way at the end of World
War II and up to the time he died in 1953.8
Some historians of this school present evidence for the fact that
Stalin was planning to launch a preemptive war against Germany. It
was to begin either by July 1941 (a minority view) or at the latest by
mid-1942. Once it was fully supplied with modern weaponry, the Red
Army would sweep clear through Europe, meeting the rebellious, war-
fatigued masses in war-torn cities as it carried the red banner westward.
Revisionist Russian historians note that in 1939 and in 1940–41 several
of Stalin’s closest aides—Molotov, Zhdanov, Mekhlis, Shcherbakov,
and so on—spoke explicitly and assuredly of “extending the frontiers
of socialism” on the wings of the “inevitable,” coming war. It was as
though war, deemed “inexorable” by Marxist-Leninist ideology and
often reiterated by Soviet spokespersons, would become a self-
fulfilling prophecy for the expansionist aims of the communist
leadership. Indeed, five years before the start of World War II, Stalin
predicted ominously:

War will surely unleash revolution and put in question the


very existence of capitalism in a number of countries, as was
the case of the first imperialist war.... Let not the
bourgeoisie blame us if on the morrow of the outbreak of
such a war they miss certain ones of the governments that
are near and dear to them, and now are today happily ruling
by the grace of God.
It can hardly be doubted that a second war against the
USSR will lead to the complete defeat of the aggressors, to
revolution in a series of countries of Europe and Asia.
Victory in revolution never comes of itself. It must be
prepared for and won.9

Although the revisionist interpretation is canvassed above, in the


following chapters both arguments—defensist and offensist (or
revisionist)—will be analyzed. This documented discussion—involving
both Russian and Western historians in the post-1991 period to the
present—will be viewed against the background of actual events and
Soviet actions during the period. Readers can then draw their own
conclusions from the arguments presented in these pages. In a
concluding note, I will weigh both arguments as judiciously as possible
on the basis of the latest available information.

NOTES
The first epigraph is from V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, vol. 7 (New
York: International Publishers, 1943), p. 33. This and other Lenin,
Stalin, et al. statements of this type may be found in Albert L. Weeks,
Soviet and Communist Quotations (New York: Pergamon-Brassey’s
Publishers, 1987), pp. 20–25.
The second is from A. N. Yakovlev, “Bol’shevizmu ne uiti ot
otvetstvennnosti” (“Bolshevism Cannot Evade Responsibility”),
Rossiiskiye Vesti (November 29, 1995), p. 1.
The third is from V. P. Ostrovskyi and A. I. Utkin, Istoriya Rossii XX
vek (A History of Russia in the 20th Century) (school textbook)
(Moscow: Drofa, 1997), p. 4. See appendix 4 for a review of some of
the new Russian history textbooks.
1 The USSR Institutions and People: A Brief Handbook for the Use of
Officers of the Armed Forces of the United States (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945), p. 64.

2 A. Z. Rubenstein, Soviet Foreign Policy since World War II:


Imperial and Global, 2d ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1985), p.
19.

3 Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (New York: Doubleday Publishing Co.,


1996), p. 424. The respected poet and war veteran Bulat Okudzhava,
after reading the offensist émigré-author Viktor Suvorov (Vladimir
Bogdanovich Rezun), who wrote the revisionist books Ice-Breaker and
M-Day, remarked: “I have read Suvorov with interest.... It is hard for
me to doubt that we [Soviets] likewise were preparing our own march
of plunder. The Germans merely got the jump on us so that we were
forced to resort to defense of our country” (interview in Literaturnaya
Gazeta, May 11, 1994).
In an early 1941 entry in his diary, Chief of the German General
Staff, General Franz Halder, disclosed the following about German
awareness of Soviet offensism (emphasis added): “One cannot help
admitting that their [Red Army] troop dispositions are such as to
enable them to pass to the offensive on the shortest possible notice.”

4 Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics. Conversations with


Felix Chuev (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), p. 63.

5 V. I. Lenin, “Ya proshu zapisyvat’ men’she: eto ne dolzhno popadat’


v pechat’” (“I Intend to Write Less Lest It Fall into the Hands of the
Press”), Istoricheskyi Arkhiv, no. 1 (1992), pp. 12–27.

6 Quoted by Stefan T. Possony in “Lenin and Meta-Strategy,” chapter


16 in Bernard W. Eissenstat, ed., Lenin and Leninism (Lexington:
Lexington Books, 1971), p. 269.

7 These and many other such statements may be found in Weeks,


Soviet and Communist Quotations, under “Peaceful Coexistence and
Detente,” pp. 201–02. Former Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A.
Gromyko updated the concept as follows: “Peaceful coexistence creates
the most favorable conditions for the mobilization of the masses in the
struggle against imperialism” (quoted in Weeks, Soviet and Communist
Quotations, p. 203).

8 Quoted in Robert Conquest, Stalin: Breaker of Nations (New York:


Penguin Books, 1991), p. 278. Stalin remarked to the Yugoslavs in
April 1945: “The war will soon be over. We shall recover in 15 or 20
years, and then we’ll have another go at it.” In his election speech in
February 1946, Stalin again spoke of the inevitability of war, in this
case between capitalist states. He repeated this thesis in his 1952
writing, The Problems of Socialism in the USSR, which was
incorporated in the summation of the last Stalinite Party Congress, the
Nineteenth, in October 1952. Soviet-sponsored international “shock
brigades” (udarniye brigady) were referenced by Stalin at that time.
Some say Stalin was anticipating World War III, fought at first
between capitalist states.

9 J. V. Stalin, “Report to the 17th Party Conference, January 26,


1934,” in J. Stalin, Selected Works (Albania, n.d.), pp. 402–03.
1

Soviet Expansionist Ideology: Propaganda


or Blueprint?

Ideology not only contributes to the development of


unlimited national objectives, but it also eventually creates
states whose goal is to overthrow the existing international
system.

—Henry Kissinger

If war is waged by the proletariat after it has conquered the


bourgeoisie in its own country and is waged with the object
of strengthening and extending socialism, such a war is
legitimate and “holy.”

—V. I. Lenin

Present-day Soviet leaders have determined upon a program


pointed towards imposing Communism on those countries
under their control and, elsewhere, creating conditions
favorable to the triumph of Communism in the war against
Capitalism which they consider to be inevitable.... The
growth of Moscow-controlled Communist parties throughout
the world gives ample evidence that the international
objective has never been neglected. World War II has
resulted in long strides along the path that the Soviet
leadership has chosen.

—General John R. Deane

It would be utterly simplistic to say that the Bolsheviks’


foreign-policy course was something consistent and
unilinear.... In certain situations it was guided by ideological
mythmaking, in others it was a case of practical interests,
while in another it was guided by imperial ambitions.

—Alexander Yakovlev, successively former Soviet


Communist Party
Central Committee Propaganda Department head, secretary,
and
Politburo member under General Secretaries Brezhnev,
Andropov,
Chernenko, and Gorbachev

Perennial disagreement among historians and Soviet specialists


revolves about the role played by ideology in Soviet policy making,
particularly toward foreign states. The argument is by no means
academic. The dispute intersects with the main thrust of this book:
Stalin’s strategy on the eve of World War II and whether it was of an
offensist/preemptive or a defensist nature. The underpinning for the
making of Soviet policy, after all, must play a major role in deciding
this question. It has been argued by some that this fundamental
underpinning is, in the last analysis, ideological.
A new book on Soviet propaganda, written by one of Russia’s young
historian-specialists, makes this point about the ideological factor in
Soviet policy making and military doctrine and strategy pegged to
before and during World War II: “In the 1930’s and 1940’s . . . the
Bolshevik leadership confronted itself with formidable foreign policy
tasks, in the solution of which propaganda was used as a virtual
‘transmission belt’ between the governmental authorities and the
population.”1 V.A. Nevezhin, the Russian Academy of Science
historian cited here, also suggests that ideology guided Stalin in the
making of defense policy. It also served as a “mirror,” as he puts it,
reflecting the decisions that the Soviet leader made in directives
guiding indoctrination.
The question of the role played by ideology in the matters under
study in this book must be addressed well ahead of the other factors
that determine the thrust of Soviet military doctrine and strategy in
1939–41 and beyond. For if the direction taken by the Kremlin in its
prewar as well as postwar relations with other states, not to mention its
military doctrine, was guided by ideology, Marxism-Leninism then
becomes as crucial as, say, Hitler’s chef d’oeuvre, Mein Kampf, or the
Japanese pre-World War II “bible,” the Tanaka Memorial (or “Tanaka
Plan”).
Some observers wonder whether Lenin, Stalin, and their cohorts and
propagandists really believed or meant what they so often said about
spreading Communism and the Soviet system worldwide. Were they
serious when they declared that the “revolutionary base” of the USSR,
the “first socialist country,” would be used in order to subvert
“capitalist imperialism” and “colonialism”? Said Lenin: “We Marxists
have always stood, and still stand, for a revolutionary war against
counterrevolutionary nations. [We would be] in favor of an offensive
revolutionary war against them.”2 Stalin noted: “The victory of
socialism in one country is not a self-sufficient task. [It is] the
groundwork for world revolution.” The Soviet Union is prepared, Stalin
declared, quoting Lenin, “to come out even with armed force against
the exploiting classes and their states.” The program of the Communist
International (Sixth Congress, 1928) puts it: “The USSR . . . raises
revolts and inevitably becomes the base of the world movement of all
oppressed classes.”3
As mentioned in the introduction, did the Soviet founding father,
Lenin and his successors, Stalin, et al., seriously regard war as the
“midwife” of revolution? Did they ever wage war with that in mind? In
other words, was the ideological goal of fomenting world revolution
according to the axioms of Marxism-Leninism mere vranyo (Russian
equivalent of “verbal bravado”), so much mumbo jumbo?
Finally, this question arises: Was the forcible expansion of the
borders of the young Soviet Republic immediately after 1918 and in the
1920s—into the borderlands of Ukraine, Byelorussia, Georgia,
Armenia, Turkestan, and so on—basically nonideological? Was it
merely the reflexive, nationalist assertion of long-standing Russian
territorial expansionism into neighboring lands going back to the tsars?
On the other hand, if this Soviet borderland expansion—coupled to
attempts to sovietize the independent Baltic states (after 1917) as well
as the more distant countries of Hungary and Germany beginning in
1918 and then Poland in 1920—was inspired by the Soviet ideology of
exporting the Soviet new “socialist order” and fomenting global
revolution, then Marxist-Leninist doctrine, it would seem, becomes
crucially determinant. It impinges significantly on the casting of both
domestic and foreign policy. It therefore becomes necessary to view
Soviet behavior to an important degree through the prism of the stated
beliefs of the regime, its ideology, and its revolutionary program. And
that includes, of course, the thrust of Soviet behavior in the immediate
pre-World War II period, which is the central topic of this book.
Roughly two schools of thought have coalesced around the pair of
opposing questions about the role of ideology in Soviet behavior. One
school frames the question this way: Is ideology in general mere
window dressing, an updated form of the ritualistic Indian rain dance as
some political analysts such as Lewis Feuer have put it? Or, on the
other hand, does ideology provide a realistic, practical “blueprint” for
concrete policy making and action, a “lodestar” (the Soviet metaphor
for Marxist-Leninist ideology) in order to guide the Russian ship of
state in practical ways?

THE REALIST VIEW


The first side in this dispute—the so-called realist school—argues that
ideology is mostly extravagant propaganda. At best, its function is to
supply ballast and legitimation to a top-heavy, autocratic regime whose
legitimacy otherwise is questionable. Ideology is crucial in order to
justify or legitimize a regime’s authoritarian or dictatorial rule. The
absolutist regime’s set of doctrines must be believed by the people and
followed to the letter. How else can the autocratic state bind together
the comrades in realizing the common cause, the practical goals of the
regime? (Plato apparently had something like this in mind with his
“useful lie” (ϰρήζιμοζ ψεύ∂οζ) taught to the citizens of his ideal
republic—a mythic ideology implanted in the youth to guarantee
obedience to the philosopher-kings.)
Yet these dogmas, or “myths,” it is alleged by the realist school, are
at heart impractical and visionary—in either the short or long term. To
the realists, this makes the dogmas all but irrelevant. Marxist-Leninist
principles and goals are like hymns sung to the choir.
For instance, consider the catchphrase for the much touted millennial
paradise of “full communism”—“from each according to his abilities,
to each according to his needs”—together with the anarchist-like dream
in Communist ideology that prophesies the ultimate, total withering
away of the state, the end of the division of labor and of differences
between town and country, and so forth. These farfetched axioms of
Marxism-Leninism are viewed by many Western observers as so much
sugarcoating. They are at best rationalizations, they insist, in support of
one-party rule. That anyone would believe such shibboleths, least of all
take them literally as “blueprints” for the future, is almost like saying
that American Indians performing a rain dance for tourists in New
Mexico are to be taken seriously, as though truly endeavoring to
produce rainfall.
In short, to the realist school, Marxism-Leninism is little more than
advertising, boastful pontification. Realists might point out that in
America clubs like Kiwanis, Rotarians, Masons, and so on likewise
make vast boasts and millennial prognostications. But does such
posturing and mumbo jumbo really mean anything? Does it affect their
behavior in any concrete way? Or does it simply boost zealots’ spirits
while rationalizing their very enterprise?
In its ideological formulations respecting foreign states and their
societies, Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism’s dogmas, realists claim,
likewise should not have been taken seriously at any given time or
place. Surely, they claim, Lenin, Stalin, and their cohorts could not
have seriously entertained the idea of a future “Soviet of the Whole
World” (Lenin’s phrase, which he often repeated). The Soviet epigones
may have talked that way to cajole or bemuse the workers, peasants,
and intellectuals or themselves or to boost party morale and strut
“militancy.” But that the leaders were actually planning and working to
attain such farfetched goals, especially “world revolution,” was and is
regarded by realists as largely fatuous. One can safely say that most
authors, latter-day Western Soviet specialists, and Moscow
correspondents writing on the Soviet affairs have hewn to this
approach, at the very least since the 1960s.4
If the realists are right, then the many Soviet ideological
pronouncements of an expansionist nature in the pre–World War II
period can be taken with a grain of salt or, in fact, ignored altogether.
Such a view, of course, prompts a negative interpretation of, for
example, the “Mr. X” essay by George F. Kennan, published in Foreign
Affairs in 1949. The views stated in that article—in describing and
analyzing Soviet ideology as a driving force of policy—were to
underlie U.S. and Western “Cold War strategy” for the coming four
decades. Mr. X’s views became cant as the verbal springboard for
formulating and maintaining the long-term American view of vigilant
“containment” toward Marxism-Leninism and Soviet expansionism. It
was the subtext of the Cold War.
Even in Kennan’s earlier writings, for example, his “personal paper”
drafted in Moscow in spring 1935, had a similar thrust. As he then
wrote:

It is important to recall the fundamental peculiarity of


Russian foreign relations.... The masters in the Kremlin are
revolutionary communists . . . they themselves are leaders of
the world proletariat. [The Russians can] tolerate
ambiguities enough in practice but not in theory. [Their]
conception of foreign relations has had a profound effect,
not only on the character of diplomatic life in Moscow, but
also on the entire development of Russia’s foreign
relations.5

Kennan’s above observation—that there can be “ambiguities in


practice” —ironically opens another realist front against the
traditionalist view: Namely, if ideology is so binding—for example, as
with the Soviet antifascist line in the Comintern from 1935 to late 1939
—how was it that Stalin could conveniently discard this basic party line
when he concluded his agreements with the Nazis in 1939 and 1940? So
doing, he thereby suspended the antifascist line in Soviet media and
official pronouncements. In this process, Stalin’s zigzag alienated
many Communists and fellow travelers worldwide. Ideology was put
through the wringer.
Put another way, fundamental Soviet national interests seemingly
can cause contradictions between raison d’état and Moscow’s official
ideology. This in turn suggests that ideology can be relegated to
secondary importance in favor of other, larger national considerations
in policy making, such as contingencies that arise that do not neatly fit
ideological dogmas. This was the case—presumably—in August 1939
when the Soviet–Nazi alliance was taking shape. Yet even this
maneuver, as we will see, had an ideological motivation.
Some authoritative Soviet military spokespeople, moreover, have
insisted that diplomacy, not necessarily ideology alone, can provide the
best “preparatory,” favorable conditions for later waging of war. To
wit, General Makhmut Gareyev, in his volume M. V. Frunze—Military
Theoretician, writes: “Skillful diplomacy [umelaya diplomatiya] not
only creates favorable conditions for waging war, but can lead to the
creation of a totally new politico-military situation in which armed
struggle can be conducted.” 6 He thus suggests that through “forceful”
diplomacy (e.g., in acquiring [annexing] Baltic and other territory in
the 1940), Stalin had prepared the USSR for waging war—whether
defensive or offensive (see chapter 5).
Nevertheless, ideology, though playing a subsidiary role at times,
was exploited at least as rationalization for the sovietization of Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania in that year, just as the previous sovietizations of
foreign lands had been. The old “bourgeois order” had to be overthrown
(as in Poland in 1920 and September 1939). This was deemed
“historically inevitable.”
In noting Stalin’s relegation of Communist International
(Comintern) interests to a lower priority with the shift in the party line
on Nazi Germany, the realists only seemingly make a good point. By
making his pact with the class devil (fascism being the most “mature”
form of capitalism) in August 1939, it is claimed, Stalin surely was
prioritizing what he considered at least to be Soviet short-term,
putatively nonideological “national” interests. He seemed to be placing
the latter ahead of ideological principles. This, in turn, apparently
makes the case that ideology can look irrelevant or expendable in
certain crucial situations. As Soviet Charge d’Affaires Georgi Astakhov
reassured German Foreign Office State Secretary Ernst Weizsaecker on
May 30, 1939:

[Astakhov] explained how Russian relations with Italy . . . as


well as other countries could be normal and even very good,
although in those countries Communism was not favored at
all. He strongly emphasized the possibility of a very clear
distinction between maxims of domestic policy on the one
hand and orientation of foreign policy on the other hand....
The ideological barrier between Moscow and Berlin
[Astakhov said] was in reality erected by us.

Likewise, after the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, Stalin
again executed a zigzag. It was a maneuver that seemed again to
compromise the official ideology. For the Soviet leader lost no time
closing ranks with those same “capitalist-imperialist” states of Britain
and America, which the Soviets, particularly during the twenty-one-
month Nazi–Soviet honeymoon from August 1939 to 1941, had singled
out as “warmongers,” the “main instigators of war” (e.g., against the
Soviet ally, Nazi Germany). Yet, by the next month of July, Stalin was
addressing these same capitalist democracies in the friendliest of
terms. He dubbed them fellow “democratic,” antifascist, war
“coalition” members. They were no longer characterized as
“plutocratic,” the Nazi-like epithet used in both Nazi and Soviet
propaganda. Nor were they even described as “imperialist” states, the
term used for them before July 1941 and restored again after the “two-
camps” line of capitalist-imperialist versus socialist states developed in
the Kremlin by 1946.
Forgotten, too, were those parallel “socialist” ideologies, Nazi and
Soviet. Their compatibility had once prompted friendly statements in
the German and Soviet press, 1939–41, that the two systems had much
in common. Yet, the term allies—soyuzniki—was very seldom used to
describe during the Soviet phase of World War II Stalin’s newfound,
“friendly,” capitalist Western states that were later to compose the
United Nations alliance along with the USSR. (Nor, for that matter, was
soyuzniki used for Soviet–German ties during the Nazi–Soviet
honeymoon.) Suspension of anti-Western, “anti-imperialist” ideology
“for the duration” clearly had to be and was achieved for the sake of the
common war effort. Disbandment of the Comintern in 1943 likewise
fits in with this opportunistic tactic.
However, such ideological compromises and backtracking lasted
only as long as the war did. And this is grist for the opposing,
traditionalist mill. As referenced by Kennan in his 1949 Foreign Affairs
essay, momentary twists and turns aside, Stalin and Co. never really
renounced basic Marxist-Leninist ideology. The ideology, he suggests,
still imparted thrust and guidance to Soviet behavior in the
international arena during and after the war.
A case in point is the earlier promise in 1933 to suspend Soviet-
sponsored Communist propaganda and subversion in the United States.
This was the price for U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union. However,
Soviet subversive activity, based on Marxist-Leninist principles and
applied against the United States and other capitalist democracies,
continued unabated in the postwar era as it had in a concealed way after
recognition twelve years before. (Even in the heyday of Nazi–Soviet
friendship the Germans complained of the same Soviet perfidy.)
In contrast to Kennan and other “cold warriors” of the postwar
period, author Gabriel Gorodetsky, a writer of the realist persuasion
especially when it comes to Soviet foreign policy, describes Stalin’s
basic attitude toward Marxism-Leninism as follows: “Stalin was little
affected by sentiment or ideology in the pursuit of foreign policy. His
statesmanship was rooted in Russia’s tsarist legacy, and responded to
imperatives deep within its history.... It is not surprising that in the
execution of his foreign policy Machiavelli rather than Lenin was
Stalin’s idol; here was a man who had The Prince especially translated
for him.”7 Professor Andreas Hillgruber adds: “Stalin never made
decisions of ‘grand policy’ on the basis of Bolshevist revolutionary
ideology. He practiced above all a rationally calculated power politics
with the aim of expanding the Soviet empire by exploiting the war that
began in 1939 among the ‘imperialist’ powers. Social revolutionary
transformation in newly-won territories was subordinated to strategic
security.”8

THE TRADITIONALIST VIEW


Among the postwar milestones of unabated, ideological,
“internationalist” activity subsidized by Moscow are the famous
Duclos Letter (The Daily Worker [the United States], May 24, 1945)
and Stalin’s February 1946 electoral speech. These along with other
Soviet tracts at the time sounded traditional communist ideological
notes as to the “inevitability” of the demise of capitalism, the
reemergence of capitalist imperialism and war in the immediate future,
and the inevitability of world revolution. With this in mind, Churchill’s
“iron curtain” speech in June 1946 can be viewed as a reaction to
Stalin’s postwar reassertion of the traditional tenets of Marxism-
Leninism and Soviet expansionism from the Stettin to the Balkans and
beyond that the ideology evidently inspired and endorsed.
By the 1970s upward, several dozen countries worldwide could be
considered active members of the Soviet bloc or of the extended
“socialist camp” of cooperative “client-states.” All were committed to
enforcing the principles of Soviet foreign policy and expansionistic
“internationalism.”
Citing such postwar facts as the above, the so-called traditionalist
school rebuts the realists. These scholars take seriously ideological
pronouncements like Mein Kampf, the Japanese Tanaka Memorial, and,
correspondingly, Marxist-Leninist ideology as formulated in the
writings of Lenin and Stalin and their aides and successors.
Traditionalists produce numerous quotations from the speeches and
writings of Soviet leaders as they set out to prove their point about
Soviet ideology as a practical, guiding set of principles, if not an actual
blueprint of expansionism.9 Such writers dovetail Moscow’s
ideological formulations with actual Soviet policies. They demonstrate
how the official ideology actually formed the basis for Soviet foreign
policy. For example, Richard W. Harrison, author of the new study The
Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904–1940, has written that
“ideological absolutes and political controls imposed on [the Red
Army] created an ethos not disposed to recognize limits, and which
could hardly have failed to have an impact on the nature of its military
operations. Consequently, the political-military belief that the
Communist ideology represented the most dynamic historical forces
naturally inclined the army toward offensive operations.”10
In assessing the intent of Soviet behavior on the foreign front, this
school also emphasizes the practical importance of the global
institution of the Third Communist International (Comintern). It also
cites its postwar successor, the Communist Information Bureau
(Cominform). Far from regarding Marxist-Leninist ideology and the
Comintern/Cominform as mere window dressing, this school claims
that ideology and policy making work hand-in-glove in a practical way.
Traditionalists might note that the Western realists habitually project
onto the Soviet camp their own views. They write under the spell of the
“end of ideology” in their part of the world.
An exploration of the validity of this point of view can start with an
examination of the Mr. X (Kennan) analysis. if Mr. X’s presentation is
convincing beyond reasonable doubt and Soviet ideology indeed
functioned like the North Star to Kremlin policy making, then the
argument that Stalin et al.’s militant, “offensist” ideological
pronouncements on the eve of World War II would seem to have more
than dubious validity. Ideological pronouncements thus become
determinants of actual Soviet behavior toward Germany and its goals in
World War II. They may even be seen to underlie the Nazi–Soviet
agreements along with Stalin’s scuttling of effort to conclude
collective-security arrangements with the Western capitalist
democracies (chapter 2).
Do, in fact, Soviet ideological, expansionist statements prior to the
German invasion on June 22, 1941, provide any clues of actual Soviet
intentions and actions? Several post-Soviet Russian writers refer to
various militant ideological statements made by high Soviet officials in
the months just before June 1941. They claim that such statements
could not have been made unless approved by Stalin. Furthermore, the
declarations themselves, they insist, reflect above all “offensist”
military planning that must have been endorsed by the dictator. For
instance, in his chapter in the Afanas’iev volume, The Other War, V. L.
Doroshenko, noting the discovery by another writer, T. S. Bushuyev, of
a new, revealing document, a speech by Stalin to a secret meeting of
the Politburo, August 19, 1939 (see appendix 3 for the text), writes:

Stalin needed the Second World War no less than Hitler.


Stalin not only helped Hitler initiate it [in Poland], he
entertained the same goal as did Hitler: seizure of power in
Europe as well as the immediate aim of destroying Poland.
Stalin calculated that the war, started by Germany, would
lead to the downfall of the European order. Meantime, he
would remain out of the [war] for a time entering the war at
the most opportune moment. [Stalin’s plans] were not only
to conquer eastern Europe but to help bring about a
communist revolution in France by going at very least as far
as the English Channel.

War, as viewed by Stalin and, before him, Lenin, suggests the writer,
is the “midwife of the sovietization of the whole European Continent.”
The Politburo speech by Stalin makes all this explicit. It states that
“Communist revolutions inevitably will break out” there as the Soviet
Army “liberates” Europe as a stage in the “development of world
revolution.”11
The classical expression of this goes back to Lenin. When in exile in
Switzerland as World War I began in 1914, Lenin viewed the war as a
great opportunity for overturning the capitalist order. The war, whose
destruction he relished for its usefulness to The Cause, would unleash
massive chaos. It would create the impetus for antiwar sentiment that
in turn would become fuel for socialist revolution that would put an end
to all war by liquidating capitalism and, with it, imperialism. This
perspective remained fundamental to Marxism-Leninism right up to the
fall of the Soviet order in December 1991.
In M. I. Mel’tyukhov’s contribution to the Afanas’iev volume, titled
“Ideological Documents of May–June 1941,” first published in the
Russian military journal Otechestvennaya Istoriya (no. 2 [1995]), the
author reproduces a number of militant statements made by high Soviet
officials. They strictly conform to Marxist-Leninist “revolutionist
principles.” He claims that they amount to blueprints for waging
offensive war in the near future. The Russian historian quotes such
officials as the No. 2 man to Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov; Party
Secretary Andrei Zhdanov; Aleksandr Shcherbakov, party secretary for
ideology and a close aide of Stalin’s; Soviet president Mikhail Kalinin;
and others.12
Several statements by the above illustrate Mel’tyukhov’s emphasis
on ideology:

If you are Marxists, if you study the history of the party,


then you understand that the basic concept of Marxist
teaching is that under conditions of major conflicts within
mankind, such conflicts provide maximum advantages to
communism. (Kalinin, speech, May 20, 1941 )

War will come at the same moment when communism is to


be expanded.... Leninism teaches that the country of
socialism [USSR] must exploit any favorably-developing
situation. In which it becomes incumbent on the USSR to
resort on its own initiative to offensive military actions
against the capitalist encirclement with the aim of extending
the front of socialism. (Shcherbakov, speech, June 5, 1941)

When conditions are favorable, we will extend the front of


socialism further to the west.... For this purpose we possess
the necessary instrument: The Red Army, which as early as
January 1941 was given the title, “army-liberator.”
(Zhdanov, speech to a conference of film workers, May 15,
1941)
The overseer of political indoctrination of the Red Army, Lev Mekhlis,
stated frankly at the Eighteenth Communist Party Congress (March
1939), referring to the views of Stalin in a manner similar to Molotov
and Zhdanov (as quoted in the introduction): “If a second imperialist
war turns its cutting edge against the world’s first socialist state, then it
will be necessary for the Soviet Union to extend hostilities to the
adversary’s territory and fulfill [the USSR’s] international
responsibilities and increase the number of Soviet republics.”13
For Mr. X (Kennan), however, ideology is not everything; it does not
cancel out other determiners of Soviet behavior. As he notes, “Soviet
policy is highly flexible” and answers to real conditions beyond its
borders, not exclusively to ideological dogmas. Moreover, he
continues:

the Kremlin is under no ideological compulsion to


accomplish its purposes in a hurry. Like the Church, it is
dealing in ideological concepts which are of long-term
validity, and it can afford to be patient. It has no right to risk
the existing achievements of the revolution for the sake of
vain baubles of the future. The very teachings of Lenin
himself require great caution and flexibility in the pursuit of
communist purposes.... Thus, the Kremlin has no
compunction about retreating in the face of superior force.
And being under the compulsion of no timetable, it does not
get panicky under the necessity for such retreat. Its political
action is a fluid stream which moves constantly, wherever it
is permitted to move, toward a given goal.

Translating the above and adding elements from the rest of his
Foreign Affairs essay, we might conclude that for Mr. X—who in his
monumental essay is surely reflecting on past Soviet behavior as well
as what he anticipated for the coming years of the post–World War II
Cold War—the Soviets may be guided or inspired by their ideology.
Yet they will act cautiously, not “fanatically.” They will not engage in
reckless, offensive behavior. They will assert themselves aggressively
only where a political vacuum appears. In all, their patience is
“Oriental” (Kennan’s word). They do not work according to a rigid,
world-revolutionary timetable or blueprint.
Applying realist-Kennan’s views retrospectively, it would seem that
Stalin would never risk war, in the offensist sense of initiating
hostilities out of the blue. He did not actively prepare for waging an
offensist war against Germany or all of Europe in the 1940s, it is
alleged. Rather, as Soviet propaganda also stipulated, if war were
forced on him, he would have more than taken up the cudgels and
“extended socialism” abroad on the tips of bayonets—but only if
attacked and “given the chance.” This might be called a “piggyback”
strategy by which an opportunity (war launched by “imperialists”) is
exploited but not necessarily instigated by the side seeking to profit
from it, that is, the Soviet Union.
It follows that Stalin, assuming he was a pupil of the Chinese
strategist Sun Tzu, might agree that the best victory is one that is
obtained by a minimum of armed fighting or, in fact, by none at all.
“Weapons are ominous tools,” Sun Tzu writes, “to be used only when
there is no other alternative.” Stalin, after all, had won half of Poland,
the Baltic states, part of Finland, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and
other territory by virtue of his deal with Hitler and with a minimum of
warfare, in some cases none at all.
However, this expansion was taking place when the Red Army was
prepared to act merely as an intimidator or enforcer of sovietization.
When it tried to be more than that—a latter-day Grand Armee in the
expansionistic, Napoleonic tradition—it failed miserably (as in the
aggressive war against Finland, begun in December 1939, or the
attempted seizure of Poland in 1920).
Could it also be said that the Soviets’ massive, ongoing military
buildup in 1939–41, accompanied as it was by threatening tones of
militancy in its propaganda, was aimed mainly at scaring off any likely
aggressor? Did the military buildup serve more as a deterrent than as
real preparation for unilaterally initiating a “preventive” war?
Was Stalin so cautious that he was not about to risk what Kennan
calls destruction of all the achievements of the Soviet Union—its
factories and cities and the communist one-party rule and
superstructure—in risky, untimely war making? As Stalin proclaimed
in 1925: “If war is to break out, we won’t be able to stand by idly. We
will have to enter the fray but we will be the last ones to do it in order
to be the decisive weight on the scales, a weight that must tip the
balance.”14
As we will see in the next chapter, nor was Stalin, as he put it in
early 1939, about to “pull chestnuts out of the fire” for any other
nation-states that got into trouble, such as in war or the threat of it—in
Czechoslovakia’s case, invasion by the German Army in 1938. The
Soviet Union would remain on the sidelines as destruction of other
European countries was unleashed. It would be neither purely neutral
nor directly involved. Until later....
Moreover, Stalin was coy in his negotiations (via Molotov) with
Hitler and Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in 1940 about just what kind of
active cooperation he would be willing to give the tripartite coalition of
states (the Axis)—assuming the Soviets joined it—which the USSR
was invited to join and toward which a memorandum was prepared in
Moscow, notably on the Soviets’ own initiative. Yet any concrete plans
for forming such a broadened alliance or an expanded Axis that would
include the Soviet Union as a full-fledged member were at best put on
the back burner by Stalin and Molotov in that period. This is shown by
close examination of the relevant texts of the negotiations during 1939–
40.
Why such an expanded alliance was put on the back burner stems
from the fact that Stalin evidently had another tactic in mind—an
ideological subplot, as it were. It was a gambit that both he and Lenin
had often mentioned in the context of war as the midwife of revolution:
that is, encouragement of intra-imperialist discord. This tactical
standby of the Kremlin will be explored later. Further, the former
deputy chief of Soviet foreign intelligence of the NKVD at that time
recalls the ideological-expansionist edge of Soviet foreign policy and
of Soviet collaboration with Hitler, observing:

Once again for the Kremlin, the mission of Communism was


primarily to consolidate the might of the Soviet state. Only
military strength and domination of countries on our border
could ensure us a superpower role. The idea of propagating
world Communist revolution was an ideological screen to
hide our desire for world domination. Although originally
this concept was ideological in nature, it acquired the
dimensions of realpolitik. This possibility arose for the
Soviet Union only after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was
signed. In secret protocols the Soviet Union’s geopolitical
interests and natural desires for the enlargement of its
frontiers were for the first time formally accepted by one of
the leading powers of the world [Germany].15

Whatever position one may take on the influence of ideology on any


regime’s policy making while assigning the priorities to ideology over
or in conjunction with nonideological Realpolitik, the following must
be kept in mind. The Soviet regime in particular put a very high
premium on ideology, and not merely qua rationalization or
propaganda. No doubt ideology, in terms of some of its particulars,
would have to yield or be changed to suit new circumstances. But to
conclude that ideology was readily disposable, meaningless, or
otherwise irrelevant to Soviet policy making, especially as concerned
the global arena and long-standing Leninist revolutionary goals, is
unrealistic, unhistorical, and inapplicable. For the Soviet regime, its
ideological underpinnings were fundamental. It is no exaggeration to
say, one must think, that, to use the Soviet expression, ideology served
as the Soviet regime’s “lodestar.”

NOTES
The first epigraph is from James E. Dougherty and Robert L.
Pfaltzgraff Jr., Contending Theories of International Relations, 2d ed.
(New York: Harper and Row), p. 114.
The second is from V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, vol. 7 (New York:
International Publishers, 1943), p. 357. For many other similar
statements by Lenin, Stalin, and other high Soviet officials, see Albert
L. Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations (New York: Pergamon-
Brassey’s Publishers, 1987), chapter 16. Lenin welcomed World War I,
remarking that a “nice, little war” would provoke world revolution.
The third is from John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), p. 319. General Deane
was in charge of the $11 billion U.S. program of Lend-Lease to the
Soviet Union. Oddly, earlier in his book (pp. 17-18) he opines that
Stalin had abandoned the program of world revolution for an
exclusively “nationalistic” policy. However, by the end of his book
Deane concludes that Stalin had never neglected a policy of communist
expansionism and fidelity to Marxism-Leninism in this respect. The
book seems to have been written serially so that by the end of the
general’s several-year experience with Stalin and his associates, such
as Molotov and Vyshinsky, he had drawn new conclusions of the type
reflected in the above quotation.
The fourth is from Aleksandr Yakovlev, Omut Pamyati (Swarm of
Memories) (Moscow: Vagrius, 2000), p. 108.
1 V. A. Nevezhin, Sindrom nastupatel’noi voiny (Moscow: Airo-XX,
1997), pp. 252–53.

2 V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 21 (Moscow: Progress Publishers,


1974), p. 221.

3 Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations, pp. 246–47.

4 For instance, in author David Glantz’s two excellent studies of


Soviet prosecution of the Great Fatherland War—referencing its
weapons and also its tactics and strategy—not a word is devoted to
Marxist-Leninist ideology (Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the
Eve of World War [Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998] and,
with Jonathan House, When Titans Clash [Lawrence: University Press
of Kansas, 1995]). Yet concerted indoctrination of Red Army
servicemen in those principles was aimed at making them better
soldiers. It would seem that commanders, up to and including the
commander-in-chief, Stalin, likewise were guided by the principles of
the official doctrine. That ideology and instilling morale and a sense of
purpose in soldiers are one and the same was first proposed by
Napoleon. Yet even in ancient times parallels may be found (e.g.,
Pericles’ propagandistic Funeral Oration extolling Athens). The point
about the perennial uses of ideology in preparation for and waging war
is strongly asserted in all editions of the Soviet Military Encyclopedia,
including one article titled “Mythology.”

5 Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective


Security, 1934–1938 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), pp. 176–
77.

6 M. A. Gareyev, M. V. Frunze—Voyennyi teoretik (M. V. Frunze—


Military Theoretician) (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1986), p. 381.

7 Gabriel Gorodetsky, Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German


Invasion of Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 316–
17.

8 Andreas Hillgruber, Germany and the Two World Wars (Cambridge,


Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), p. 82. The last sentence in the
above quotation admittedly is puzzling. It is by no means clear how
sovietization would be “subordinated” to strategic security. One would
think they would work together. In any case expansion of the Soviet
Empire is perfectly consonant with the world-revolutionary aims
repeatedly asserted by Stalin as by Lenin before him. Compare NKVD
foreign intelligence officer Sudoplatov’s observation concerning the
dovetailing of Soviet Grand Strategy and revolutionary ideology.

9 Among the several books of this type published after 1945 in


America is Blueprint for World Conquest (Washington, D.C.: Human
Events, 1946), edited by William Henry Chamberlin. Chamberlin
describes the excerpts from Comintern theses and programs reproduced
in the book as follows: “These [are] authoritative blueprints of the
communist scheme for world conquest.” He suggests that they are no
less authentic and sincere than, say, Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

10 Richard W. Harrison, The Russian Way of War: Operational Art,


1904–1940 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001), p. 272.

11 Yuri N. Afanas’iev, ed., Drugaya Voina (Moscow: Rossiisky


Gosudarstvenny Universitet, 1996), pp. 60–75. The full text of Stalin’s
speech is reproduced in this chapter.

12 Afanas’iev, Drugaya Voina, pp. 95, 97. Yet, in his book


Upushchennyi Shans Stalina (Moscow: Veche, 2000), Mel’tyukhov is
ready to admit that ideology can be all but irrelevant: “It is easy to see
that attributing all sorts of sins to ideology as V. Suvorov does that
such a notion has little substance. Take famous figures of world history
like Tutmose III, Ramses II, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila,
Charlemagne, Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, et al., none of them was a
member of the Communist Party . . . yet this did not stop them from
building an empire” (pp. 11–12). One might question the author’s
examples. Some of these empire builders—especially Napoleon and
Alexander the Great—surely did exploit ideology in making their
conquests.

13 M. I. Semiryaga, “Sovetskyi Soyuz I vneshnyaya politika SSSR,”


Voprosy istorii, no. 9 (1990), p. 61. Semiryaga is a respected doctor of
historical sciences, State Prize laureate (USSR), and today a scholar in
the Russian Academy of Sciences. A prolific researcher and writer, Dr.
Semiryaga inclines toward the “offensist” school in interpreting
Stalin’s policies and actions before June 1941. He is one of the
contributors to the Afanas’iev book cited above.

14 Quoted in Ernst Topitsch, Stalin’s War: A Radical New Theory on


the Origins of the Second World War (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1987), p. 7.

15 Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov, Special Tasks: The


Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness—A Soviet Spymaster (Boston: Little,
Brown and Co., 1994), p. 102.
2

Prewar Diplomacy and the Comintern

For [the Bolsheviks], diplomacy was part of the capitalist


superstructure.... Soviet diplomats had the impossible task of
serving two causes, two professions, two masters: One of
[world] revolution, the other of diplomacy. Essentially,
[Soviet diplomats] had to bridge the enormous gap between
a revolutionary Soviet regime . . . and capitalist governments
to which they were accredited whose values, indeed
existence, they were committed ideologically to destroy.

—Zinoviev, later chairman of the Comintern

Words must have no relation to actions, otherwise what kind


of diplomacy is it? Words are one thing, actions another.
Nice words are a mask for concealment of bad deeds.
Sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water of
wooden iron.

—Josef Stalin

Round us are small countries which dream of great


adventures or allow great adventurers to manipulate their
territory. We are not afraid of these little countries, but if
they do not mind their own business, we shall be compelled
to use the Red Army on them.

—Andrei Zhdanov, close aide to Stalin

Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own


social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as
his army has power to do so. It cannot be otherwise.

—Josef Stalin

When Lenin strode triumphantly down the center aisle of the Tavrida
Palace in Petrograd (later Leningrad, now St. Petersburg) to open the
first, post–November 7 Second Congress of Soviets, he announced that,
in his words, a “New Order” had been established by the Bolshevik
revolution. This was not ideological posturing. Lenin had explicitly set
out profoundly to change his country root and branch and, with it, as he
said, the world. The Russian and, in fact, pan-European ancien regime,
as French revolutionaries called the departing system in France, was to
be buried and with it many customary “bourgeois” institutions
composing the capitalist “superstructure.” Among these institutions
were diplomacy and the “old way” of doing things in world politics.
With several ensuing decrees and pronouncements during the weeks
following the Communist seizure of power, Lenin and his associates let
it be known that, like it or not, Soviet relations with foreign states
would be cast in totally new, “militant” ways. Treaties would be torn
up, and the tsarist diplomatic tradition would be repudiated. Out of the
destruction of the Old Order worldwide would come socialist
construction. “Much remains in the world that must be destroyed by
fire and steel,” said Lenin during World War I, “in order that
emancipation of the working class may be achieved.... Do not listen to
sentimental whiners who are afraid of war”—or of world revolution. By
war Lenin meant not only clashes between nation-states or, as he put it,
between proletarian and bourgeois states, which he considered the wave
of the future. Diplomacy, too, was regarded as a “weapon” for
advancing The Cause worldwide.

EARLY DIPLOMACY
Lenin’s tactics called for advance and retreat or what he called taking
“one step backward in order to make two steps forward.” By 1918
Lenin was prepared in certain circumstances to look at interstate
relations in quite conventional ways as viewed from the parapets of the
Kremlin, the Soviet government’s new home (as of March 11, 1918,
when the regime was officially moved there from Petrograd). Despite
their revolutionary rhetoric and the adoption of radical-sounding
governmental titles like “commissar” (an invention of Trotsky’s), the
leaders of the Soviet Republic began to confront traditional problems
of Realpolitik along with their preoccupation with their much touted
revolutionary messianism. As this mix was being recipied, the Third
Communist International, significantly, was founded in the next year,
1919.
Of utmost immediate importance, however, was the defense of the
Bolshevik revolution in the grimmest, most realistic terms. The regime
was acquiring increasing numbers of domestic armed and unarmed
enemies— especially within the restive working class. Lenin had
prorogued the democratically elected Constituent Assembly that was
allowed to meet for only one day on January 18. The Bolsheviks had
won only about one-quarter of the seats. The oppressive Cheka police
(from the Russian acronym for Extraordinary Commission to Combat
Counterrevolution) and its drumhead, firing-squad tribunals had
already been set up in December. Civil war began to rage as domestic
and foreign enemies harangued and fought against the “Revolution”
and the Lenin dictatorship. By 1921, on Kronstadt Island in Petrograd,
Lenin’s Red Army was mowing down workers and sailors, his
staunchest, former Bolshevik supporters. Throughout the rest of the
country the Red Army and the Cheka tribunals, liquidating
“counterrevolution,” were brutally suppressing peasant revolts.
The later, halfhearted, short-term Allied intervention in the Civil
War (1918) further complicated the Soviet Republic’s external
security. The aim of the Allied intervention, to be carried out only
while World War I was still raging, had been intended mainly to defend
against Bolshevik seizures of the large Allied stores of weapons and
ammunition bunkered at such Russian wharves and depots as those at
Murmansk, Archangel, and Odessa as well as in the Far East. Bolshevik
propaganda, often later echoed in the West, depicted this limited
enterprise solely as a concerted effort by the Western powers to snuff
out Communist rule. George V. Kennan, a witness to these events, has
described such propaganda about the “counterrevolutionary
intervention” as just that—propaganda.
In early January 1918 Russia was still formally engaged in hostilities
against the Central Powers in World War I. Soldiers on both sides died
in this interval following the Bolshevik seizure of power in November
1917. In this continued fighting on the Eastern Front, Germany was
about to fully occupy Ukraine and with it to gain control over 40
percent of Russia’s total industry and 70 percent of her iron- and steel-
producing capacity. The bulk of Russian-exported grain was produced
in this “breadbasket.”
How to extract the Soviet state with its emerging Red Army from
World War I with minimal damage to the integrity of the New Order
became central to Soviet diplomacy. Ukraine was not yet totally in
German hands. It was Berlin’s price for German withdrawal from
Russia in exchange for Russian closure of the Eastern Front against the
Germans. By a narrow margin of voting in the party’s Central
Committee, in which Trotsky opposed Lenin, the latter’s plan to
sacrifice the entire Ukraine to Germany was adopted. Trotsky and other
officials of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs thereupon traveled in
Western-style civilian clothes (but without top hats or striped pants) to
Brest-Litovsk in German-occupied Poland to work out the deal with the
German emissaries for closing down the Eastern Front. This agreement
became the famous Brest-Litovsk Treaty of March 1918, abbreviated
simply as “Brest-Litovsk,” an early example of Soviet willingness to
compromise on the diplomatic front (though Lenin seemingly had no
other choice) and in particular to strike a deal with the Germans.
It also signified winning what became known in Soviet tactics as a
“breathing space,” that is, time to recoup in order to later resume the
revolutionary offensive following the Brest-Litovsk “retreat.”
Zigzagging was a well-known Bolshevik device, part of the “code of
the Politburo.” Lenin said at the time: “If you are not able to adapt
yourself, if you are not prepared to crawl in the mud on your belly, you
are not a revolutionary but a chatterbox.” Such retreating, as with
Brest-Litovsk or the New Economic Policy launched in 1921, did not
mark the end of the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary socialist mission; it only
represented a pause—and a useful one in several respects.
Lenin had just barely sold his comrades on the usefulness of the
treaty. Yet he had convinced a majority by arguing that German troops
fighting on the Eastern Front would be transported westward to fight
the “capitalist-imperialist” states of France, Britain, and the United
States.1 (The latter had been dispatching units of the American
Expeditionary Force into France since early 1917.) The Germans soon
carried out this deployment to the disadvantage of the Allied war effort
against the Central Powers.
Brest-Litovsk provides a good example of dovetailing what looks
superficially like mere reason-of-state diplomacy—namely, ending war
on Russia’s western frontier—with the timeless dictates of Leninist
ideology—namely, encouraging interimperialist “contradictions” and
interimperialist fratricidal war. Here was set a lasting precedent, a
harbinger of what was to become a perennial Soviet tactic in foreign
relations—namely, helping the Western capitalist states self-destruct.
As Lenin advised: In diplomacy, “we must exploit the contradictions
and divergences in view between any two imperialisms, between two
groups of capitalist states, pushing one against the other.”2 The
“pushing” included instigation of war between them.
Pondering Lenin’s words with the realist-versus-traditionalist points
of view in mind (see chapter 1), was this instigation policy motivated
by nonideological “geopolitical interests” alone? Or was it based on
Bolshevist revolutionism? It would seem that both factors were
operating. Yet without ideological underpinning about the “laws” of
capitalist imperialism, the policy of fomenting intra-imperialist
tensions would have lacked a perspective, if not a motivation.
Because of the transfer of German troops to the Western Front,
Germany in spring 1918 seemed to have come near to winning the war
against the Allies, with its 200 divisions poised to drive on to Paris—at
one point the French capital lying only some 35 miles distant from the
invaders. However, French and U.S. reinforcements succeeded in
stopping the last of Ludendorff’s several offensives by summer 1918.
By November the war was over.
Out of such internecine struggle within the imperialist camp of
“bourgeois” capitalist states, as noted, Lenin hoped that strife and
socialist revolution would grow. War, as Marx and Engels taught, is a
catalyst of unrest and destruction. Later the Soviet leader gave Japan as
an example of such a state with which the Soviets could help instigate
future hostilities against capitalist America. He added that war between
these two states in any case was “inevitable.” Referring to Japan, Lenin
said: “To put it bluntly, we have incited Japan and America against
each other and so gained an advantage.” In a speech to the Moscow
party “aktiv,” on December 6, 1920, Lenin further declared:

Until the final victory of socialism throughout the whole


world, we must apply the principle of exploiting
contradictions and opposition between two imperialist power
groups, between two capitalist groups of states inciting them
to attack each other.... If it should prove impossible to defeat
them both, then one must know how to rally one’s forces so
that the two begin to fight each other. For when two thieves
quarrel, honest men have the last laugh.... As soon as we are
strong enough to defeat capitalism [worldwide], we will
seize it at once by the scruff of the neck.

As we shall see, in the 1920s and 1930s Stalin enlarged on this


Leninist concept of Soviet encouragement of divide and conquer via
intra-capitalist-sphere war. The policy as applied to the Far East was to
include Japan. This would become a war that ultimately began at Pearl
Harbor and in the South Pacific in December 1941 and involved the
capitalist powers, America and Britain. (Months in advance of Pearl
Harbor Stalin had intelligence about the impending attack on December
7 but did not share that information with Washington; this, after all,
would have violated the tactic of helping capitalist states commit
fratricide.) Shrewd, overtly “nonideological” Soviet diplomacy, but a
foreign policy that was in tune with the regime’s ideology, was the tool
by which in an important way Soviet fundamental goals were to be
realized.

DIPLOMACY IN STALIN’S INDUSTRIALIZATION


“Trade diplomacy,” the art of winning trade partners and achieving
profitable trade deals that would strengthen the Soviet Republic
especially in the military sense, had been an integral part of Soviet
foreign policy at least since the inauguration of the New Economic
Policy (NEP) in 1921. This was when Lenin ordered his temporary,
tactical retreat in Soviet domestic and foreign policy under NEP. By
this means he sought to repair some of the economic damage wrought
by the previous three-year stint of radicalized “War Communism” and
by the disruptive civil war of the same period. The Soviet leader
thereupon began to open up the young Soviet state to intercourse with
capitalist nations. This opened the period of intense Soviet-German
military collaboration (see chapter 3) that set a lasting precedent right
up to 1939 and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pacts.
After Lenin’s death and Stalin’s consequent consolidation of power,
elaboration of Lenin’s commercial opening to the West was effected by
Stalin. This partial rapprochement with the capitalist states, confined
mainly to commerce, was linked to Stalin’s industrialization program,
which was initiated with the First Five-Year Plan in the late 1920s.
Josef Stalin well understood that for the USSR to become a major
player in the world arena, which he repeatedly said was his principal
goal, it would have to be powerful in the military-industrial sense. He
was not satisfied to relish the Soviet Union as the model socialist state
merely in the idealistic sense or as an isolated “Soviet garden” lacking
influence on the global chessboard. As he once asked matter-of-factly
about the Vatican, the capital of Western Catholicism and a fountain of
myths, “So, how many divisions does the Pope have?” Spiritual
monumentality did not impress Stalin—except as propaganda frosting
on the cake. Heavy industry and motorized infantry divisions were what
really mattered to him.
Before Stalin could supply the Red Army with guns, tanks,
motorized infantry vehicles, aircraft, naval ships, and ammunition, it
was necessary, of course, to develop the basic “producer-goods” or
heavy industries of mining, power (energy), iron and steel, and machine
building of several types. Here again diplomacy would come to the
rescue. In this case it took the form of fostering foreign trade and on-
site aid together with sales of foreign patents to the Soviets.
It is sometimes forgotten that the process of industrializing Russia
had proceeded at an impressive pace under the tsars before World War
I, from the 1890s to 1914. But the devastation of that war had set back
this impressive, nascent Russian industrial growth. Stalin picked up
where the tsars had left off. Now, however, the Soviet leader’s
emphasis was on defense production, which after Stalin’s death in 1953
had left per capita food and consumer goods output in Soviet Russia
where the tsarist Russian economy had been forty years ago back in
1913. (First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev was obliged to disclose this
embarrassing fact in September 1953, perhaps on Premier Georgi
Malenkov’s urging.)
During the Five-Year Plans, Stalin repeatedly emphasized what the
basic intentions of the Soviet buildup were, what its sacrifices were for.
As he proclaimed, Soviet Russia would become a major power, in his
words the “prototype of the future world socialist Soviet Republic,”
calling it the “base for world revolution”: “The Russian proletariat is
the vanguard of the international proletariat,” he said.3 In order for it
(meaning Russia) to fulfill that role, it must become a world power.
Moreover, in so doing the USSR would be more than able to defend
itself against the “capitalist encirclement.” (Stalin ignored the fact that
this “encirclement” had been distinctly passive since 1918 with the end
of the war-related Allied intervention.) All of Soviet Russia’s “defense
needs,” Stalin promised, would be met by the completion of the several
quinquennial plans. By then, he promised, the country would be ready
to meet any expediency—war being the most likely such event, as he
himself had predicted.
As Mr. X documents with numerous citations directly from Lenin’s
and Stalin’s speeches and writings, both Lenin and Stalin on many
occasions predicted that a new world war was “inevitable.” They
predicted that it would be one in which imperialism would perish—
with Soviet help. For the Soviets, developing weapons of war was not,
in their view, simply a case of militarism, Soviet style. The policy
flowed from geopolitical as well as ideological premises formulated in
Moscow.
Foreign economic assistance to the Soviet Union, aid that was
developed through diplomacy, became crucial for the process of
industrializing the USSR. Significantly, although not surprisingly, the
Soviets’ main supplier in the 1920s and 1930s was Germany. The
United States came in a close second. It is no exaggeration to say that
without this foreign assistance the Soviet industries could not have
developed apace, including its power industry (represented, above all,
by the great Dnepropetrovsk Dam in Ukraine, built with U.S help and
equipment); its manufacturing industries (including not only heavy
industry but also textiles); its mining and oil-drilling equipment; its
railroad construction; its tractor-, tank-, and aviation-production
facilities; and much else. And this was not solely because of German
and American assistance; other states gave assistance, too.4 The Soviets
likewise purchased foreign patents where needed. When I visited the
USSR, as late as 1966, I still saw old foreign trademarks stamped on
metal labels affixed to factory machinery—in this case, at a major
plant in Moscow, the Zhelyabov Textile Factory.
As the Red Army was training and equipping itself for mobile war,
during 1934–39 alone its fleet of tanks tripled. Before the Soviet-
German war began in June 1941, Soviet tank production already was up
to 12,000 per year, with the total number of the fleet reaching 24,000
by summer 1941.5 This was a defense-production feat far exceeding
even Germany’s, let alone the combined levels of tank production in
France, Britain, and, not surprisingly, the United States in its defense-
poor, pre-Pearl Harbor years. By means of the heavy industries that
made all this possible, the USSR boosted itself to first, second, or third
place in the world in the production of various kinds of electrical power
(thermal and hydroelectric) as well as crucial raw and manufactured
materials—iron, coal, and steel being among them.
Soviet production of tanks, planes, and many types of field weapons
at that time exceeded the production of all the major Western countries
combined! That is, of course, before U.S. arms production had made
the United States by 1942–43 the “arsenal of democracy.” But even
during World War II, the USSR far outproduced the United States in
machine guns and mortars as well as cannons and tanks. Also, the
unique, multiple-rocket firing “Katyusha” (or mobile “organ” artillery,
so named because of its resemblance to a nest of organ pipes) was
coming on line as the Great Fatherland War began. Like other new,
world-class weaponry just starting to come off Soviet assembly lines in
1941, the Katyusha ultimately played a major role in Soviet victories.
Among the new Soviet tanks was the low-profile, diesel-driven,
semiamphibious (fording) T-34, developed in the late 1930s. This was
the only such tank of its kind in battle in 1941 and was the envy of the
Wehrmacht. Early Soviet artillery likewise was impressive, as were
several other types of ground-force weaponry, including mortars and
infantry guns and vehicles (the hardiness of the latter under Russia’s
severe winter conditions became a crucial factor). Moreover, the Soviet
aircraft industry was developing apace. Many innovations, and some
flight world records, were chalked up by the Red Air Force in the
1930s. (Pre-1917 Russian progress in aviation is, of course, well known
to anyone who has ever heard the names Mozhaisky, Tsiolkovsky, or
Sikorsky.)
Not the least of the impressive new Soviet aircraft were the twin- and
four-engine, medium- and long-range bombers and transport aircraft.
The latter especially would be used for transporting airborne troops.
The long-range heavy bomber TB-3, to cite one example, could carry
four light aircraft mounted atop its wings or slung below them and the
fuselage. Such Red Air Force planes, powered by impressive engines,
could carry more weight than any foreign equivalent. In some ways the
power plants of these planes were the forerunners of the powerful
rocket engines developed in the USSR in the 1950s.
From 1940 to mid-1941, the Soviet aviation industry was mass
producing the MiG-3, Yak-1, LaGG-3, 11-2, Pe-2, and other aircraft. In
that mere one-and-a-half-year period, the total fighters and bombers
produced in the USSR came to 1,200 MiG-3s, 400 Yak-1s, 250 Il-2s,
and 460 Pe-2s. According to British and other military analysts, the
Soviet planes in some cases were, indeed, world class. Too, the rate of
their production in the USSR in the late 1930s, even before Operation
Barbarossa was launched against the USSR in summer 1941, exceeded
German aircraft production by four to one. These machines included
the Ilyushin-2, or “Shturmovik” air-ground support fighter; the heavily
armed fighter Polikarpov (“Po-2”), which saw service in the Spanish
Civil War; and the flyushin-16, Version 17, a Polikarpov design
appearing in 1938, an outstanding aircraft with ShKAS machine guns
mounted atop the engine cowling plus two 20-millimeter cannons
mounted in the wings, firing 1,600 rounds/minute with a muzzle
velocity of 2,700 feet/second. These were exceptional specs for its
time. The 11-16’s armament and ordnance weight exceeded that of the
Messerschmidt 109-E1 by double and that of the British Spitfire by
three times.
The specs of several other types of Soviet planes also led their
equivalents worldwide. Some broke records in long-distance flight and
in the power of their engines. Red Air Force fighters could attain
speeds of up to 260 miles/hour and outclassed in several respects the
German single- and twin-engine Me-109, FW-190, and Ju-87 and -88.
By mid-1941, the total Red Air Force fleet consisted of 10,000
planes, with a monthly production rate of 1,630 aircraft. By 1942, this
latter figure had risen to 2,120 on the production base already
established during the two preceding years. The designers of such
world-class aircraft included A. S. Yakovlev, S. A. Lavochkin, A. I.
Mikoyan, N. E. Zhukovsky, V. M., Petlyakov, N. N. Polikarpov, S. V.
Ilyushin, G. M. Beriyev, A. N. Zhuravchenko, D. A. Ventsel’, V. S.
Pugachev, and G. I. Pokrovsky.
Soviet defense-production organization and experience became vital
when the German penetration of the industrial Ukraine in the opening
weeks of the Great Fatherland War in June-July 1941 forced the Soviets
to step up the movement of their production facilities to the rear to the
Ural Mountains industrial region, the easternmost boundary of
European Russia. At this time the Soviet’s own production of war
matériel rather dwarfed subsequent Lend-Lease aid—as vitally
important, however, as the latter was, as per Stalin’s public postwar
admission to U.S. Lend-Lease administrator Eric Johnston.

TRAIL OF BROKEN “FRIENDSHIP” TREATIES


As the Soviets built up their industrial and military strength, their
diplomatic relations with the outside world appeared confusing. In the
pre-World War II years, the “dialectical” twists, turns, and zigzags of
Soviet tactics became standbys in Soviet diplomacy.6 Some Western
analysts even thought that the Soviets were using such mind-boggling
on-again /off-again tactics as a form of psychological warfare to baffle
and “wear down” the adversary. Soviet policy toward the League of
Nations is one of many examples of this zigzagging. The “Nazi-Soviet
honeymoon,” suddenly inaugurated in August 1939, to the world’s
surprise and certainly to that of the world’s Communist Party
apparatuses, was only the latest of a string of such policy gyrations.
At times, such zigzag behavior profoundly disoriented foreign
observers, especially pro-Soviet ones and fellow travelers. Why, some
might ask, would Stalin and the Soviet Union conclude a friendship
treaty with each of the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—
while at the same time using Communist Party legals and illegals in
those same countries to overturn their capitalist system, private
ownership of property, and political order? Indeed, as early as 1918 as
well as in the 1920s Lenin followed a policy of attempting to sovietize
countries as far to the west as Hungary and Germany. Was this merely
old-fashioned Realpolitik based on the basic Russian geopolitical
situation? Or did the regime’s expansionist ideology serve as more than
a contributing factor to such behavior?
The same could be asked about Moscow’s overtures to and
agreements with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and other nation-
states with which Moscow made nonaggression, friendship, or mutual-
assistance treaties in the 1930s while at the same time fomenting unrest
in those same countries or eventually in the postwar period even taking
them over. In fact, a U.S. Senate staff study, compiled in 1959, found
that in thirty-eight short years after 1917, the USSR

had broken its word to virtually every country to which it


ever gave a signed promise. It signed treaties of
nonaggression with neighboring countries then absorbed
these states. It signed promises to refrain from revolutionary
activity inside the countries with which it sought
“friendship.” [One may] seriously doubt whether during the
whole history of civilization any great nation has ever made
as perfidious a record as this in so short a time.

Trade was a strong motivating factor in such diplomatic intercourse, to


be sure, although not the only one. Not even trade—say, as embodied in
the Anglo-Soviet trade pact of 1921—was allowed to interfere with
Moscow’s pursuit of world revolution and subversion in all of the
countries without exception with which it had diplomatic and other
dealings.7
The several precedents in this respect established in Soviet behavior
in the 1920s and 1930s shed light on Soviet serpentine maneuvering
throughout 1939. This was at the time, namely, when negotiations were
held simultaneously with the Germans on one hand and the French and
British on the other (see chapter 4). In these negotiations the Soviets
secretly shared the texts of their talks with the British and French with
the Germans to win the favor of the latter. They did not perform this
favor for the other two capitalist states. By contrast, on occasion the
British kept Moscow informed of its talks with the Germans—and, of
course, informed Stalin of some of the contents of Enigma Machine
intercepts of German General Staff coded messages that pointed to the
opening of German hostilities against the USSR in June 1941. The
British and Americans never revealed, of course, the top-secret source
of their information.
The United States was also the object of two-track duplicity. In 1933,
Moscow, via the Soviet emissary to Washington, Maxim Litvinov, the
same accomplished, wily Old Bolshevik who had taken part in the
Rapallo negotiations with Germany and who, despite his Jewish
ancestry, favored Soviet-Nazi rapprochement (see chapter 4), spoke for
his government as he agreed to terminate Communist Party-supported
activities in the United States. This was in exchange for recognition of
the Soviet Union by the Roosevelt administration. But this promise,
too, was to be broken, despite repeated U.S. protests.

THE COMINTERN
Lenin was a uniquely innovative political actor in several respects. Not
the least of his extraordinary accomplishments was the founding of the
modern world’s first totalitarian state. Another such innovation was his
establishment in 1919 of the Third Communist International—the
“General Staff of World Revolution.” World politics had assumed an
entirely new character. Now organized, global subversion by a major
power would cast a shadow over the ways in which the diplomatic
game had been played traditionally in Europe since the 1600s. Lenin
had broken entirely new ground by creating this world-girdling
organization with its headquarters in Moscow.
A good deal more than a Kremlin toy but less than a world-
revolutionary Red Army ready to march against the world, the
Comintern and its mission assumed several effective forms. It cannot
be underestimated as an influential tool used by the Kremlin in order to
promote Soviet interests and ideology on a global scale. Specifically, it
was tasked to do the following:
1. Propagate Soviet-style communism that Lenin described as the
sole model for all bourgeois and colonial societies in order to
make the transition to socialism via the dictatorship of the
proletariat on the Soviet model.
2. Establish Communist-led vanguard political forces in the target
countries, capitalist and pre-capitalist, that would unite with
subsidiary “front” organizations in order more broadly—for
example, via parliamentary struggle, through the trade unions, and
so on—to wage class war to bring down bourgeois democracy.
3. Use the “citadel” of the Soviet Union, or “base of world
revolution” (Stalin), as guide and leader of the world movement,
even using its military force, the Red Army “of liberation,”
wherever appropriate or feasible to bring about the Communist
revolution in a given country or region. This was known as
exporting revolution on the “tips of Red Army bayonets.”
4. Exploit pacifism by use of peace campaigns to sap and stop armed,
defensive containment of Soviet-sponsored world revolution in
capitalist countries, above all in Britain, France, and the United
States. (An old piece of barracks humor in the Soviet Union had it
that “one day the Soviet peace effort will be so successful that not
a brick will be left standing anywhere.”)
5. Recruit spies and subversives within capitalist or colonial
countries.

The Comintern’s life span was twenty-five years—from 1919 to


1943. During that time it was far from successful in its ongoing labors
to trigger world revolution. Yet, at the very least, it was the source for
recruiting numbers of effective spies and subversives. It also helped
promote pro-Sovietism and poputchikestvo (fellow travelership). This
it did not only in the industrialized capitalist countries but also
throughout the Third World. Actually, the Comintern acted as an arm
of the Soviet secret police (OGPU, GPU, later NKVD), which had
thoroughly penetrated the organization.
Moreover, with clever operatives like Soviet Comintern agent Willi
Münzenberg, who organized outwardly non-Communist, though
Communist-backed movements and demonstrations in the Western
democracies, an impressive number of leftwing people and
organizations there were bamboozled into accepting various
Communist-supported radical stands. A number of very well known
Western intellectuals were taken in. These Comintern positions
revolved about such issues as opposing Western rearmament and
military defense preparations, supporting unqualified Soviet friendship
even if it meant disloyalty to one’s home country, and smoothing the
way via innocuous-looking “fronts” toward spreading Communist
propaganda and influence within the target societies. The Comintern’s
work combined with national Communist parties’ activities worldwide
succeeded in some places in thoroughly penetrating labor unions, youth
groups, and even the media—though much less successfully in those
days in the United States than in such European countries as the United
Kingdom and particularly France and the Lowlands.
UNITED FRONT/POPULAR FRONT
Much has been written about the “Popular Front” tactic developed
within the Comintern in the mid-1930s. Historians have described how
this party line transitioned into the Comintern-backed anti-Fascist
movement. Actually, Lenin invented the front tactic back in 1922,
calling it at that time the “United Front tactic.” Later, under Stalin’s
tutelage after 1924, the Comintern began sharply to distinguish
Communist parties from Social-Democratic parties (SDs). Under
Stalin’s direction, it sought to put them on diametrically opposite sides
of the barricades. The SDs were stigmatized as “Social Fascists” by the
Stalinite parties throughout Europe and the Americas.
By thus following Stalin’s orders in the Comintern, the German
Communist Party adamantly refused to cooperate with the popular
Social-Democratic Party, which opposed Hitler’s and his Nazis’ rise to
power. With this in mind, as well as displaying his usual penchant for
believing that “worse is better”—for communism and world revolution
—Stalin instructed in the late 1920s:

It is necessary that Social-Democracy be unmasked and


defeated and be reduced to being supported by an
insignificant minority of the working class. Without this
happening, it is impossible to speak of establishing a
dictatorship of the proletariat.... The most favorable
circumstances for a revolution in Germany would be an
internal crisis and a significant increase in the forces of the
Communist Party accompanied by serious complications
within the camp of Germany’s external enemies.8

It is now a consensus view held among Russian historians, a view


that began to surface under glasnost’ near the end of Communist rule in
the USSR, that Stalin’s aversion to democratic socialism as represented
by the SDs helped pave the way to Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 and
with it German military aggression. Stalin believed that Hitler’s Nazis
would only aggravate the German class struggle in ways he thought
were useful to the Soviets. Because of Stalin-decreed splittism within
the German Left, the anti-Hitler camp in Germany became divided. The
German Communists refused to join forces on the Left to block the
Brown Shirts.
When Lenin’s United Front tactic was refurbished and unfurled again
as the “Popular Front” at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in
August 1935, the organization’s leader, Georgi Dimitrov, described it
as a boring-from-within tactic to be used among Communist-supported,
leftwing forces worldwide in order to attract supporters of the USSR
and of world revolution. These front groups were designed ultimately
to fall under the leadership of the Communists. (I actually witnessed
such a stratagem in the postwar period. It was used by Communists
within the Chicago chapter of a World War II veteran’s organization,
known as the American Veterans Committee [AVC]. The AVCs elected
leaders got wind of this tactic and expelled the Communists. Similar
episodes occurred within U.S. labor union executive bodies.)
Dimitrov explains the tactic quite candidly in his widely distributed
pamphlet, with its yellow, red, and black cover, titled The Working
Classes against Fascism: “Comrades, you will recall the ancient tale of
the capture of Troy.... The attacking army was unable to achieve victory
until, with the aid of the famous Trojan Horse, it managed to penetrate
to the very heart of the enemy camp.” Dimitrov is quite frank about the
fact that the forming of Popular Fronts with leftist-minded
collaborators was not an end in itself. It was a step, he says, toward
eventually capturing power for the Communists.
As to the anti-Fascist side of the Popular Front, this side, or thrust,
of the movement did not in the least deter Stalin’s efforts to close ranks
with the German Nazis (see chapter 3). This was true despite mutually
hostile propaganda attacks shared between both parties’ propagandists,
those of the Reds and of the Browns, throughout the 1930s and despite
Hitler’s plans, as stated in his bible, Mein Kampf, to seize territory
from Russia for the purpose of securing German “Lebensraum.” As
author Stephen Koch explains:

Münzenberg’s apparatus, in turn, was ordered to transform


the “peace” movement and use it to mount a new, world-
wide anti-Fascist campaign.... The Soviet state under Stalin
was assuming the moral high ground. Or so it seemed.... As
such, communism seemed to represent the only real
resistance to the new horror so obviously taking shape [in
Nazi Germany]. The democracies, through their real or
supposed inaction, were depicted as bound by capitalism
either to the ineffectiveness of liberalism—or worse, to a
secret sympathy for the Nazis, “Fascist brothers under the
skin.” This myth therefore assigned moralized roles, casting
the struggle between the two states as the definitive struggle
between good and evil in the century. In it, the Stalinist line
became good or at least necessary to the good, by virtue of
its supposed opposition to Hitler’s evil....
The tremendous moral credit inuring to this myth, which
was added to (and was much greater than) the already
existing moral credit of the Revolution itself, came flowing
toward the Soviets at exactly the moment that Stalin’s
government was moving toward its most sinister and brutal
phase. Paradox? It was not a paradox born in coincidence. It
was a deception, and it was planned. For this great
confrontation between the [two] totalitarian powers was
itself a deception, and in every way a very different thing
from what it appeared to be.9

Soviet aide Karl Radek, who had supervised the anti-Fascist line (and
who, when he was briefly in prison in Germany in the 1920s, had been
approached by representatives of the German General Staff who urged
him to promote German-Soviet collaboration), had made the same
points to Walter Krivitsky. He disclosed to Krivitsky the grand
deception of the anti-Fascist movement sponsored worldwide from
Moscow: “Only fools,” Radek said, “could imagine we would ever
break with Germany. What I am writing here [of an anti-Fascist nature]
is one thing. The realities are something else. No one can give us what
Germany has given us. For us to break with Germany is simply
impossible.” Stalin shared these sentiments.
Koch adds that just as Münzenberg was placing himself in Paris in
charge of executing the Popular Front line in France, Radek was sent by
Stalin into top-secret contacts with the German ambassador in Moscow,
Radek acting as the Soviet dictator’s direct, confidential emissary
These confidential discussions, in which the Soviets were initiators,
took place without the knowledge of the Soviet diplomatic service or of
the Army. The contents of the talks amounted to negotiations based on
mutual benefit. In other words, they were the prelude to the Nazi-Soviet
negotiations of 1939 in which the Soviets once again were the
initiators.10
In July 2000, the Russian journal Vorposy Istorii published for the
first time long excerpts from the diary of the head of the Comintern,
Georgi Dimitrov. The document was unearthed by a Russian Academy
of Sciences historian, F. I. Firsov, from the Archive of the Soviet
Communist Party Central Committee. Classified “strictly secret”
(strovo sekretno), the Dimitrov diary contains many revealing facts
about Stalin’s attitude toward world revolution, the capitalist states,
Germany, and the coming war.
We learn, for instance, that far from downgrading the importance of
the Communist International’s activities at any juncture in its history,
Stalin took a special interest in its work. In remarks to Dimitrov on
September 7, 1939, he explained the rationale behind the Nazi-Soviet
agreements that, superficially at least, seemed only to help Germany.
As Stalin explained:

War between the two groups of capitalist states (poor ones


vs. rich ones in terms of their colonial possessions, raw
materials, etc.) is taking place for the redivision of the world
and for world domination! We won’t prevent them at all
from fighting among themselves all they wish as they go
about damaging and bringing down the capitalist system.
Communists who are in power take a different position from
those who are in opposition [seeking power]. We are masters
in our own household. The Communists in capitalist
countries, on the other hand, are in opposition to the
bourgeois boss. So, we are able to maneuver, pitting one
[bourgeois state] side against the other so that they will fight
all the harder with each other. The [Nazi-Soviet]
Nonaggression Pact helps Germany to a degree but at the
next juncture spurs on the other side.11

Here Stalin was suggesting that in helping Germany with the


formidable shipments of Soviet matériel to buttress the German war
machine (see chapter 4), the Soviets thereby aggravated the military
balance between Germany and its potential enemies (World War II
began September 1, 1939; it did not become a truly fighting war in
Western Europe until the next year).
Stalin went on to say that while the antifascist line of the Comintern
was useful before the war had begun, once it began, the line made no
sense. Nor did distinguishing fascist from democratic states: “The war
brought about a basic change. The united Popular Front of yesterday
was merely to alleviate slavery under conditions of capitalism. But
once the imperialist war begins, it becomes a question of destroying
this slavery!” Another historian writes:

The main purpose of the “anti-fascist solidarity of all


democracies” [line] had been to prevent a rapprochement
between Hitler and the Western powers. When war was
declared, this goal had been achieved; furthermore, the
Kremlin now supported Germany for reasons of power
politics—Hitler’s forces could be used as a battering ram
against the “imperialists.” Anti-fascism had served its
purpose and—at least for the time being—it was finished. It
was perfectly clear at the time that the main thrust of Soviet
policy was directed at the Western powers; this was true
before, during, and after the Second World War. The anti-
Hitler coalition, which came later, did not alter this fact.
Very much to Moscow’s advantage, however, it veiled it
from the eyes of democratic politicians and public opinion
in the Western countries.12

At the sixteenth anniversary of Lenin’s death held in the Bolshoi


Theater, January 21,1940, Stalin defined world revolution under the
new conditions of actual, ongoing war as follows: “World revolution
seen as a single act is pure nonsense. It proceeds through several stages
at various times in the several countries. Actions by the Red Army also
are part of the world revolution.”13 On November 25,1940, Dimitrov
heard Stalin say the following in discussions between him and Foreign
Commissar Molotov upon the latter’s return from Berlin: “In the lands
destroyed by the occupation of German troops we will pursue a course
there of carrying on our work but not screaming from the rooftops what
we’re up to. We would not be Communists if we did not follow this
course. The thing is to do this quietly.”14

Stalin closed down the Comintern in 1943 after almost a quarter


century of it playing the role as something more than a mere disposable
tool of the Kremlin. For some authors, the Comintern’s demise, on
Stalin’s orders, testifies to the dictator’s demeaning of its importance.
Yet the Comintern’s functions did not cease as the USSR allied itself
with the Western powers in World War II. On the contrary, Comintern-
like activities were continued. They were even strengthened in the
name of spreading Soviet-style socialism worldwide by the
Comintern’s successors, the Cominform and the CPSU Central
Committee’s International Department, which was run by former
Comintern executives. These “internationalist” organs by no means
were vestigial. Their program for global subversion and Soviet
expansionism was solidly within the traditions of the Comintern, the
“General Staff of World Revolution.”

NOTES
The first epigraph is from Soviet Diplomacy and Negotiating Behavior,
vol. 1, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives,
96th Congress (1979), p. 56. Zinoviev, later chairman of the Comintern,
referring to treaties like that signed at Brest-Litovsk between Germany
and the Soviet Republic in March 1918 that provide for momentary
truces, remarked: “We should use breathing spaces so obtained in order
to gather our strength.” Theodore J. Uldricks, specialist on the Soviet
Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, has written: “In the early days of the
Soviet regime, the conception of ‘Bolshevik diplomacy’ seemed
impossible to both friend and foe of the revolution. Could bomb-
throwing revolutionaries suddenly don striped pants and sit down to tea
with representatives of imperialism?” According to Uldricks, this they
did with consummate ease because, in his view, ideology was no
imperative to them or later to Stalin (Soviet Diplomacy and Negotiating
Behavior, p. 47).
The second is from Soviet Political Agreements and Results, staff
study, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 86th Congress, First
Session (1959), p. ix. The report, written by the Democrat-led
committee, states: “The staff studied a thousand treaties and
agreements [that] the Soviets have entered into not only with the
United States but with countries all over the world. The staff found that
in the 38 short years since the Soviet Union came into existence, its
government had broken its word in virtually every country to which it
ever gave a signed promise. It signed treaties of nonaggression with
neighboring states and then absorbed those states. It signed promises to
refrain from revolutionary activity inside the countries with which it
sought ‘friendship,’ and then cynically broke those promises.” The
dates and circumstances for the Soviet takeovers of neighboring states
after 1918 are given in Albert L. Weeks, The Other Side of
Coexistence: An Analysis of Russian Foreign Policy (New York:
Pitman, 1970), pp. 32–44; and in Martin Gilbert, Atlas of Russian
History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 103, 113–14,
116.
The third is quoted in Weeks, The Other Side of Coexistence, p. 54.
The fourth is Stalin’s remark to Yugoslav No. 2 Communist official
in Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin (London: Harmondsworth
Publisher, 1969), pp. 90–91. Two books on Radek are highly
informative on Soviet-German ties established in the pre-1939 period:
Jim Tuck, Engine of Mischief: An Analytical Biography of Karl Radek
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988); and Warner Lerner, Karl
Radek: The Last Internationalist (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1970).
1 A. N. Yakovlev, Omut Pamyati (Moscow: Vagrius, 2000), p. 83.
Yakovlev, former member of the Soviet Communist Party Politburo,
describes the “new” Soviet diplomacy as follows: “The post-October
1917 Soviet pose of renouncing secret diplomacy and going over to
above-board diplomacy quickly changed. Deceit, lying and
dissimulation, so much a part of the history of diplomacy, were wholly
adopted by Soviet foreign policy” (Omut Pamyati, p. 110).

2 Weeks, The Other Side of Coexistence, pp. 295–96.

3 For both quotations, see Albert L. Weeks, Soviet and Communist


Quotations (New York: Pergamon-Brassey’s Publishers, 1987), p. 194.

4 Details are provided by many sources. Two suggested ones are


Ellsworth Raymond, The Soviet State (New York: New York University
Press, 1978), chapter 6; and Weeks, The Other Side of Coexistence,
chapter 5.

5 Raymond, The Soviet State, p. 96. Raymond was in charge of


analysis of the Soviet economy in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the
late 1930s. He was regarded as one of the best-informed experts on the
Soviet economy and Soviet war planning in the West. He played an
advisory role in Washington, D.C., during the Lend-Lease period of aid
to Russia in World War II.

6 For an analysis of the Soviet policy of “collective security,” see


chapter 4.

7 A comprehensive, levelheaded exposition of Soviet “two-track”


pursuit of diplomacy plus export of revolution may be found in Stanley
W. Page, Lenin and World Revolution (New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Co., 1959). Also see Soviet Political Agreements and Results.

8 J. V. Stalin, Sochineniya, vol. 7 (Moscow: Ogiz, 1947), p. 86.

9 Stephen Koch, Double Lives (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. 54.

10 Yevgeny Gnedin, Iz istorii otnoshenii mezhdu SSSR i fashistskoi


Germanii. Dokumenty i sovremenniye komentarii (New York:
Izdatel’stvo “Khronika,” 1977), p. 262. One of historian Gnedin’s
specialties is the career of Karl Radek, who headed a special foreign
affairs directorate set up by Stalin whose main task was to solidify
Soviet-German relations.

11 V. B. Mar’ina, “Dnevnik G. Dimitrova,” Veprosy Istorii, no. 7


(2000), pp. 36–38.

12 Ernst Topitsch, Stalin’s War: A Radical New Theory on the Origins


of the Second World War (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), p. 54.

13 Topitsch, Stalin’s War, p. 40.

14 Topitsch, Stalin’s War, p. 41.


3

The Soviets’ Pro-German Posture

It is not Germany that will turn Bolshevist, but Bolshevism


will become a sort of National Socialism. Besides, there is
more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us. There is,
above all, genuine revolutionary feeling.

—Adolf Hitler

The Soviet Government, with an eye on its internal situation


in Russia and fearing a war on two fronts, must hold aloof
from military enterprises [related to enforcing collective
security with the Western powers]. [It] is hardly likely to
march in defense of a bourgeois state [such as
Czechoslovakia].

—German Ambassador to the USSR Count


Friedrich Werner von Schulenburg

In striving to secure safe external conditions for undertaking


the remodeling of Russia along lines drawn by her rulers,
Soviet foreign policy’s primary goal was to prevent the
formation of a hostile combination of foreign powers, and to
keep the Soviet Union out of international conflicts before
such time as she would be strong enough to enter them
without risk.

The Soviet-German Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 1918 followed by the


Treaty of Berlin (1926) were harbingers of future, significant bilateral
cooperation between the two “loser” states. Brest-Litovsk became the
symbol of Soviet diplomatic flexibility forced under dire circumstances
on the emergent revolutionary state. It became a classic precedent in
which the Soviets had struck a temporary deal “in league with the
devil” in order to enhance Soviet Russia’s own national interests and
external security—at others’ expense—regardless of “appearances.”
Ironically, Germany in 1939 again became such a devil when Stalin
made a second Brest-Litovsk-like deal with the leader of the Nazi
German state (see chapter 4), including discussion of an even broader
pact with the German-led Axis to divide up the world between the other
totalitarian states—Germany Italy, and Japan—together with the
USSR.
The Brest-Litovsk deal was struck with Germany, the birthplace of
Hegel, Lenin’s favorite philosopher, and of Marx and Engels, the holy
ghosts of Leninism-Stalinism. It was the country Lenin most admired
for, among other things, its socialist-like wartime economy designed by
General Erich von Ludendorff. The latter, incidentally, was the author
of the influential military writing Notes on Offensive Battles, a work
doubtlessly familiar to Lenin, a zealous reader of military theory (e.g.,
as per his deep reading of Carl von Clausewitz).
Lenin was a dedicated Germanophile. Germany was the Central
European country that he considered to be the linchpin of pan-European
revolution. “When you see a Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
in Berlin,” Lenin remarked in 1918, “you will know that the proletarian
world revolution has been born.” It was the same Germany, then under
Kaiser rule, that had recognized Lenin’s notoriety and influence in
world politics. Berlin provided the funds to Lenin and his Bolshevik
cohorts to take the famous “sealed train” (a misnomer) from
Switzerland safely through the battlefields of Germany, thence by ship
and rail to Sweden and Finland, and finally on to St. Petersburg, Russia,
in April 1917. This was perpetrated just a month following the
overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II. The kaiser wanted Russia out of the war
as well as embroiled in internal strife to keep it paralyzed and out of
the fight.
It was a shrewd and effective game played by the German leaders.
Regarded as a useful “bacillus,” as German officials called him, Lenin
was utilized by Berlin as an agitator who would help “neutralize”
Russia. Lenin had been bitterly opposed to Russian participation in the
“imperialist war” then reaching a climax across Europe—a story told
effectively as historical fiction in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Lenin in
Zurich.
Dispatching millions of Reichsmarks to Russia, the Germans
continued after April 1917 to subsidize the subversive bacillus Lenin as
well as his subsequent Bolshevik regime from late 1917 into 1918. The
details of the large funding and the way the money was “laundered” and
reached Lenin and his comrades in Petrograd (to fund Bolshevik
newspapers, propaganda, demonstrations, etc. throughout 1917) were
disclosed as Communist archives began to be opened in Moscow under
“glasnost” and to a much greater degree after 1991. The post-Soviet
weekly Argumenty i Fakty, under the headline “Reichsmarks for the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” was among the first large-circulation
publication in Russia to provide complete evidence on the German
funding of Lenin and Bolshevism. 1 The paper notes the dates,
locations, and amounts of the bank deposits made in Russia and
includes photostats of Soviet memoranda concerning the depositing of
the subsidies. Along with this article Argumenty i Fakty published a
photo montage depicting Lenin in a German World War I helmet
replete with Pickelhaube (ice-pick point). (Accusations that Lenin was
a German spy, however, are doubtful and have never been confirmed.)
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918) became another milestone in
Soviet-German relations. By the treaty, seventy German divisions,
which had been fighting against Russia on the Eastern Front in the
Great War, were transferred to the West European front. Had America
not entered the war and sent the American Expeditionary Force to
Europe to fight alongside the Allies, it is quite possible Germany would
have won the war or at least it might have dragged on interminably. At
one point, the German Army had driven within 35 miles of Paris.
With Lenin’s encouragement and initiative, post-World War I
Weimar Germany in 1922 eagerly became the first major country to
have entirely normal relations with the young Soviet Republic
(although a modest Anglo-Soviet trade deal, later abrogated by London,
was concluded the year before). In his earliest diaries of the mid-1920s,
Josef Goebbels, who was to become Hitler’s propaganda minister some
eight years later, relished the advent of German-Soviet cooperation.
Goebbels in Germany was about to pen his encomium to both Hitler
and Lenin under the title Lenin oder Hitler?
Russian-German cooperation began in tsarist times. It is a long story
that goes back to the eighteenth century when Peter the Great
encouraged close relations with Prussia. The Russian Army began
copying Prussian uniforms and drills and adopted the goosestep (which
the Red Army also adopted).
With German unification after 1871, Russia again closed ranks with
Germany. Under the German chancellor, Bismarck, a “Reinsurance
Treaty” was concluded with Russia that protected Germany’s rear in
the case of trouble with France and Britain, which were being alienated
by Bismarckian expansionist ambitions. After Bismarck was dismissed
in 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm let the reinsurance deal with Russia flounder.
This decision paved the way toward World War I, in which Austria
united with Germany against Russia and the Western Allies.
As a follow-up from the Genoa Conference (1922) came fruitful
diplomatic negotiations and the resultant treaty, including its secret
clauses, signed between the Soviets and Germans at Rapallo in 1922.
An era of close, active collaboration between the two states then
opened. In fact, this process of Soviet-German collaboration never
really ceased—with the exception of a few ups and downs for a while
after Hitler consolidated his power in 1933—until June 22, 1941.
Lenin and Stalin were always attracted to Soviet-German friendship,
those “natural allies,” Germany and Russia, who confronted a
“common enemy.” As in the Hitler period, the two Soviet dictators
relished the fact that Germany was a have-not capitalist state that was
bent on revenge against the capitalist-imperialist victors of World War
I. Moscow fully concurred with Berlin that German lands had been
“extorted” from a “defenseless” Germany by what Lenin called the
Versailles Treaty “robbers with knives in their hands.”

RED ARMY-GERMAN ARMY COLLABORATION


Always in awe of German efficiency, German industriousness, and the
Prussian military, Lenin closed ranks with Weimar Germany on several
levels and with several purposes in mind. Among other actions, he
invited German military (Reichswehr) officers to come to Soviet
Russia, despite Versailles Treaty prohibitions, to practice their arts of
war on the broad plains of European Russia, which they proceeded to
do beginning in 1924. This cooperation was based on a secret follow-up
of the Rapallo Treaty that had been signed on April 16, 1922. The
names of the officer-participants on both sides later became famous in
World War II. The Soviet officers cooperating with the Germans were
among those purged in Stalin’s bloodbath of Red Army General Staff
and line commanders in 1938.
On the German side in this early Soviet–German military
collaboration were noted generals, marshals, chiefs-of-staff, and Nazi
Army commanders-to-be. These men included Brauchitsch, Guderian,
Blomberg, Marx, Model, Horn, Manstein, Kestring, and others.
Figuring in the collaboration on the Soviet side were Tukhachevsky,
Triandafillov, Blyukher, Yakir, Svechin, Frunze, Voroshilov, Kork,
Alksnis, Budyenny, Shaposhnikov, and others. Directly supporting this
“strictly secret” (sovershenno sekretno or strovo sekretno, the highest
degree of Russian secrecy—in American parlance, “top-secret”)
Soviet-German military collaboration from the Communist Party and
civilian-administrative side were Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Radek,
Rozengoltz, Krestinsky, and so forth. Their names appear on documents
disclosed in archives opened since the demise of Communism in Russia
in 1991.
A decade-long period of bilateral cooperation ensued during which
the Red Army together with the German Reichswehr pioneered
development of the tactics of what was later to become mobile
“blitzkrieg” warfare or, as the Red Army called its own form of it,
rapid “deep-battle operations.” These were based on air-ground support
tactical aircraft, mechanized infantry (the Germans called them
“panzers”), tanks, and airborne paratrooper formations.
The Russians had laid out a large, underdeveloped airfield at Lipetsk
just south of Moscow especially for this purpose. Under the secret
agreement, this spacious area was transformed into a modern airbase
replete with hangars, repair shops, and stands and rigs for testing
aircraft engines. Other facilities on the several hundred acres of
grounds included dispensaries, barracks, and administrative buildings.
The whole area, surrounded with barbed wire, was designated off-limits
and guarded around the clock. Neighboring Soviet citizens in the town
could only guess what was going on.
Military collaboration proceeded apace for years. In 1923 General
Paul Haase purchased 100 Fokker D-XIII aircraft from Holland and
flew them to Russia. The German aircraft industry, already famous
from World War I, built new experimental craft. These were secretly
flown to Russia from a secluded airbase at Rechlin, Germany, although
their military character could no longer be camouflaged to elude
Versailles inspectors.
By the mid-1920s some sixty German pilots and flight instructors
were attached to Lipetsk, Russia. In the summer the contingent of
German airmen reached 100. Trainees were replaced every six months
by others who had graduated from basic training schools in Germany.
The entire German unit was masqueraded as the “Fourth Squadron of
the Red Air Force.” Out of this came 120 outstanding German fighter
pilots and 450 flight personnel—all thoroughly trained at Lipetsk. Later
in the Hitler years these personnel served as the core of Hitler’s
Luftwaffe. Who knows how many of the Lipetsk cadre later found
themselves behind the controls of German military aircraft—fighters,
dive-bombers, and medium bombers—engaged in combat with
Russians in the skies over the USSR during the Great Fatherland War?
Moreover, thanks to Lipetsk, Germany’s aircraft industry—despite
the “watchful eyes” of the Versailles powers—was able to draw up and
test designs that otherwise could not have been developed until the time
when Hitler, after 1935, began openly rearming. According to
Luftwaffe General Helm Speidel, who worked in the administrative
sector of the so-called Zentrale Moskau, the most lasting contribution
made by Lipetsk to Hitler’s air force was “the conceptual foundation
laid up for the future Luftwaffe in actual flying practice.”2
The famous Junkers Stuka dive-bomber (Ju-87) was actually first
produced in a Soviet factory. Poison-gas warfare was tested in the
German-Soviet war games fought on the Russian steppe. Joint military
ventures were undertaken, and airfields and aircraft factories were built
at Lipetsk. Tank and flying schools and defense-production facilities
were constructed. Soviet–German collaboration also involved both
navies. Out of this cooperation came the German “pocket battleships.”
The Soviet-German relationship in these years was mutually
beneficial: The Soviets tested their mobile, mechanized-corps tactics
under the rubrics of “deep-battle” operations aimed at rapid destruction
of the enemy forces on their own territory—that is, blitzkrieg. (This
term was coined by Time magazine; it was not used by either the
Russians or the Germans in those years.) Soviet military officers also
underwent studies in Germany—all conducted in utmost secrecy, of
course, lest the terms of the Versailles Treaty be openly violated and
Soviet Russia’s much touted “peaceful intentions” be sullied by public
knowledge of such illegal activities of war preparation.
Ironically, this was the time when Lenin first unfurled the Soviet
concept of “peaceful coexistence” or, as it was then called in the 1920s,
“peaceful cohabitation.” It was the earliest form of a Soviet “peace
offensive.” The talented people’s commissar of foreign affairs of this
earliest period, Georgi V. Chicherin, was Lenin’s conduit in this
respect.
British Prime Minister David Lloyd George later got wind of the
Soviet–German collaboration. He wrote in his memoirs in the 1930s:
“The greatest threat at present consists, to my mind, in the fact that
Germany can bind its destiny with Bolsheviks and may place all its
material and intellectual resources, all its huge organizational talent at
the service of revolutionary fanatics, whose dream is conquest of the
world by force of weapon for Bolsheviks. Such a threat is not
chimera.”3
The salient feature of the weapons development and the war games
in Russia, as first developed in theory by Red Army senior officers
Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Vladimir Triandafillov, was seen in the
employment of tactics of surprise in massive use of tank-based
motorized units together with air-ground offensives and paratroop
drops against an overwhelmed enemy.4 The Soviets applied these
methods for the first time on a large scale in real war against the
Japanese in the armed skirmishes bordering Mongolia in the Far East
throughout 1939. The smaller Japanese forces in Japanese-occupied
Kwantung Province in Mongolia were overwhelmed and decimated,
especially once Red Army General Georgi K. Zhukov took command of
the Soviet forces there in mid-1939.

SOVIET–FASCIST TOTALITARIAN KINSHIP


After he had outmaneuvered his political rivals among the Old
Bolsheviks and took over the helm in the Kremlin by the late 1920s,
Stalin embarked the country on a concerted program of building the
USSR into a world-class power, especially in the military sense. It was
to be “socialism in one country” but with “other countries” kept
definitely in mind, in the sense that Stalin intended for the USSR to
outclass and overpower them, especially in the military sense as the
“vanguard of world revolution.”
The ensuing Five-Year Plans after 1929 were geared, above all, to
building a heavy-industry base. From this base, defense production
would be given top priority while consumer goods would be relegated
to what was designated as the lower “Category B.” The whole thrust of
Stalin’s program of economic buildup was aimed in the long term at
making the Soviet Union a major player on the world scene in both the
political and the military senses or, as the Soviets called it, “politico-
military” terms.
Some Western writers have suggested that the leader’s typical
dictator’s megalomania was not the only thing motivating these
ambitious policies. They allege that Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili,
who adopted the name “Stalin” (from the Russian word stal’, meaning
“steel”), was a devout Russophile. For him, his Georgian roots were
scarcely a source of pride. The trait of Russophilia in Stalin was
noticed by a number of his comrades as early as 1912. Several writers
and film producers in the 1930s flattered the dictator by comparing him
—at his own prompting—with the Great Russian tsars, Ivan the
Terrible and Peter the Great.
Stalin became the first Hitler-like dictator on the world stage of the
twentieth century. Later, Hitler himself acknowledged magnanimously
that he and Stalin were the most impressive leaders in the modern
world. In comparison to them, he said, Mussolini, Churchill, and
Roosevelt all paled. During the Nazi–Soviet honeymoon of 1939–41 the
vozhd’ (i.e., Supreme Leader) Stalin returned the compliment to Hitler
by praising the Führer, the German form of vozhd’, for his leadership
of the German people. He congratulated him in 1940 on his “splendid”
military victories against the “plutocratic,” “warmongering” countries
of France and England—common enemies, the Soviets said, of both
Germany and the USSR.
By the time Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Stalin had set
a number of enviable precedents for effective police-state
totalitarianism, some of which drew praise from Hitler, Goebbels, and
il Duce Mussolini. These were one-party dictatorship; the ubiquitous
political police; punitive labor camps; an official ideology, or “world
outlook,” upheld as exclusive and binding with its “world-historical,”
world-girdling pretensions; one-man dictatorship and glorification of
“the Leader”; etatization of the trade unions, press, schools, and all
other social, political, and economic institutions; a rubberstamp
“parliament”; ascendant militarism; and the singling out of a
scapegoat, pariah class (as Hitler did with the Jews and Lenin did with
the “bourgeoisie”), the bourgeoisie being forced by the Bolsheviks to
wear yellow cards (Hitler used yellow stars) in their hats so that the
public could recognize and condemn them.
The Soviets’ huge sports and military rallies and parades, reviewed
by the top party leaders, likewise were copied by the Italian Fascists
and German Nazis. Even the Soviet use of the color red on the banners
and their utterly new (as a state symbol) hammer and sickle are praised
by Hitler in Mein Kampf. These were emulated by the Nazis with the
latter’s red, black, and white banners and their own reinvented symbol,
the swastika (Lenin had once considered adopting the swastika).
Mussolini adopted his own, particular symbol, the ancient Roman ax-
with-fasces.
For good reason, Mussolini called Stalin a “crypto-Fascist,” whereas
Hitler said, “We must learn from the Marxists,” recognizing the
similarities between the two regimes’ philosophies. Making the best
Nazi recruits in Germany, Hitler added, were ex-Communists. Speaking
of Mussolini, Lenin found much to admire in Italian fascism—an early
example of the affinities felt between totalitarian states. The “Black
Shirts” were notorious in Lenin’s lifetime, and the Soviet Republic
eagerly opened relations with Fascist Italy. Mussolini had made his
triumphant march on Rome in 1923, just six years after Lenin seized
power in Russia. Having passed through a phase of Bolshevik-like
socialism in his pre–World War I political evolution, Mussolini later
adopted a nationalistic platform. When he became Italy’s “Duce,” he
developed a form of corporate-state socialism that was derived from
his earlier prewar socialist, Marxist-Bolshevist views. In his system,
dictatorship of the proletariat would be transmogrified into a
centralized state running most affairs in the country from the center.
Hence, Lenin’s admiration for the Italian regime.
Mussolini, like Goebbels in the 1920s, was impressed with Lenin’s
one-man leadership. “The masses,” he once wrote in the fascist
newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, “need a hero.” (In the early 1930s
Molotov was to pen an identical observation concerning the need for a
powerful leader like Stalin.) Moreover, like Lenin and Stalin,
Mussolini had no use for “bourgeois liberalism” and “bourgeois
democracy”: “[We] throw the noxious theories of so-called liberalism
on the rubbish heap,” he said, “[along with] the more or less putrid
body of the Goddess of Liberty.” Hitler agreed.
Whereas Lenin and Stalin created “Soviet Man,” Mussolini sought to
create the “Fascist Man,” just as Hitler was later to create the new
“Aryan Man.” In 1921, Mussolini declared in the Chamber of Deputies
in Rome: “I recognize that between us and the Communists [there are]
intellectual affinities.”5 Italian Fascist affinities with Leninism aside,
the main point is as follows: The totalitarian affinities between the
Germans and the Soviets, that is, the “Communazi”/“Red-Brown”
kinship, definitely played a seminal role in the Soviet–German coming
together in late 1939. At one point in the Ribbentrop negotiations with
Stalin, the German foreign minister blurted out after a toast or two in
the Kremlin on the night of August 22–23, 1939, during the signing of
the first of several Nazi–Soviet agreements, that he felt comfortable in
the camaraderie of his Soviet hosts. It was, he said, as if he were
“among old party comrades.” At other times Soviet and German
spokesmen let it be known that the two states and their regimes had
more in common than not, despite verbal on-again/off-again
propaganda wars between them.
There was much between them, in other words, by way of common
interest and feeling that paved the way to that fateful day of August 23,
when the Nazi–Soviet Nonaggression Pact was signed before a broadly
smiling Stalin and a grateful Ribbentrop. It also marked the
culmination of a long-brewing close relationship embracing many
spheres.

RIDING THE CURRENTS OF EUROPE


In the interwar period, many conflicting tidal currents were flowing
among the states of Europe, some of them new “Versailles”-born
nation-states, such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, and the three
Baltic states, all newly established since World War I. One such ebbing
current put Germany and the Soviet Union on the same side of the
barricades. This stemmed from the fact that the Versailles Treaty had
drawn the boundaries of several countries—among them France,
Czechoslovakia, and Poland—in ways that disadvantaged, in the
German and Russian perceptions at least, both Geimany and Soviet
Russia, the so-called losers from the war.
In the west in the coal-rich Ruhr, Germany lost vital land and
industrial assets to France. On its eastern borders, Germans had been
“arbitrarily” included in the new, Czechoslovak-ruled territory of the
Sudetenland. Former German territory and people were also packaged
into an enlarged, postwar Poland when part of Silesia with its German
population became Polish territory. Much to Germany’s dismay, the
“Polish Corridor,” also created by the Paris settlement, “artificially”
separated Prussia from the “cretanized,” postwar Germany.
On the Russian side, the enlarged Poland also “encroached” on
Russian territory in the east, land that was formerly part of White
(Byelo-) Russia. Also, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania, former duchies of tsarist imperial Russia, were granted
independence. Russia also lost Bessarabia to Rumania, another
fledgling state created out of the old Ottoman Empire on the basis of
the fuzzy Wilsonian concept of “self-determination.”
The Paris peace treaty had not only offended Germany and Russia,
which, of course, were left out of the postwar territorial resettlements
concluded at Versailles. It had likewise aggravated tensions among
minority peoples everywhere, especially where new boundaries drawn
under the Versailles regime put them unwillingly under “foreign” rule.
It was inconceivable that the two large states of Germany and Soviet
Russia would ever accept their position of inferiority as the result of
the “bandits’” treaty of 1919. Not surprisingly, when both powers had
regained their strength, nationalist-minded elements proclaimed in
their countries that they would seek to rectify the “injustices” of the
Versailles “victors.”
As a consequence, Europe became divided into states and political
movements that included, on the one hand, territorial “revisionists”
and, on the other, “antirevisionists.” As revisionist capitals, both Berlin
and Moscow therefore sought to create a New Order for Europe that
would replace the Versailles Treaty’s “artificial” one. It was against the
backdrop of these tensions and common interests that Germany and
Russia were driven together.
We will see in the discussion of the Nazi–Soviet agreements in
autumn 1939 that the mutual interests of the two “deprived” states were
reasserted in the Nazi–Soviet Friendship Pact concluded in September
1939. In the manner in which the pact’s secret protocols carved up
Poland between Germany and the USSR (presaging Foreign Commissar
Molotov’s announcement in fall 1939 that “the Polish state has ceased
to exist”), long-standing German and Soviet interests dating from 1919
were well served.

FAR EAST WRINKLES


Not without relevance in the 1930s kaleidoscope is the Far Eastern
picture. To Soviet Russia, affairs in this region looked particularly
unfavorable to its national interests. Soviet foreign policy toward the
East Asian nations of Japan and China thus displayed those same
contradictions as it did toward the West. Perhaps these contradictions
were unavoidable considering Moscow’s notorious “double track” of
illegal export of revolution versus normal diplomatic intercourse.
Thus, in Asia (as later in Africa and South America in the postwar
years) Leninist-Trotskyite strategy included the tactic of stirring up the
colonial “rear” of the Western “imperialist” nations. This was another
way of weakening and bringing down the industrialized capitalist
countries, which relied on the natural resources they obtained from
what later was called the “Third World.” The way to Paris and London,
said Trotsky and Sultan Galiyev (who sought to create what he called a
“Colonial Comintern”), lay via the West’s colonies—the metropolitan
countries’ sources of raw materials and cheap labor as well as potential
cauldrons of revolution.
Playing on anticolonialist discontent in, for instance, China in the
1920s—which had been undergoing a nationalist transformation before
and after World War I—the Comintern under Stalin’s direction allied
itself with the Chinese nationalist party, the Kuomintang. While they
were allied with the Kuomintang and its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, the
Soviets, via their emissary in China, Mikhail Borodin, built up and
trained the Chinese nationalist army (the contemporary Taiwanese
Army, of the Republic of China, still bears traces of this training) and
developed the security police. Stalin’s plan was to embrace
“anticolonial” nationalist forces in the largest East Asian country.
Eventually they would facilitate Communist seizure of the reins of
leadership over the mainland.
However, by the late 1920s this “United Front” tactic, an updating of
Lenin’s similar tactic, as pursued by Stalin failed on the mainland.
Chiang, sensing what the Soviets and their Chinese Communist Party
comrades were up to, turned against his Soviet advisers. He began a
bloody liquidation of the Communists in his midst. The failure
signified that “the road to Paris and London” that lay through the Far
East would not at this time, at least, be able to run westward from
Kuomintang Nanking or Beijing.
Meanwhile, farther to the east, Japanese expansionist militarism
came to power in Tokyo. This led in 1931–32 to Japanese seizure of
Manchuria and parts of Mongolia—territory bordering directly on the
Soviet Union (some three-quarters of Russian territory stretches
eastward into Asia from the Ural Mountains). Relations between Japan
and the Soviet Union steadily worsened as the two states soon got on a
collision course.
Their interests directly clashed, for instance, in Outer Mongolia,
which had become by 1921 a Soviet client-state, or “People’s
Republic.” There, local, independently acting Japanese generals, ruling
like mandarins in areas on the Chinese mainland that were remote from
the Japanese islands, often made their own arbitrary decisions in
spreading—on bayonet tips—Japanese control throughout China and
Mongolia. However, when the local Japanese commander took on the
Soviet “bear” aggressively in Kwantung Province by assaulting Soviet
troops across the Mongolian border there in spring 1939, he and his
over two-division-sized, primitively equipped forces of upward of
40,000 men met from the Russians what the Soviets proudly called a
“firm rebuff.”
In fact, the Soviet-Japanese conflict on the Mongolian Khalkin-Gol
River plain became the occasion for the Red Army to test, successfully,
all those advanced tactics of the art of utilizing surprise in waging
modern, mechanized warfare while employing “overwhelming force”
that were so prized by the more offensist-oriented Red Army
commanders. One of those commanders was then-General Georgi
Zhukov, who earned his first laurels as an impressively effective, hard-
driving commander at Khalkin-Gol in summer 1939. But, as we saw,
the Soviets’ main focus remained on Europe—and in particular on
Germany.

The German–Russian connection was a permanent fixture during


periods of Lenin’s, Stalin’s, and their successors’ reigns. Going back to
Peter the Great, Russians have always respected German efficiency and
public administration. In the Soviet period this extended to
appreciation of and exploitation of traditional German militarism via
the German–Soviet military collaboration of the 1920s and beyond.
Toward Hitler’s Germany, Stalin was both cooperative and wary. As
will be seen, there is little doubt that Stalin would have liked to get the
better of Hitler by the terms of the Nazi–Soviet agreements of 1939–40
as well as by exploiting Germany’s own involvement in war with the
Western Allies. He planned his own “stab in the back,” in other words,
but Hitler himself executed one before Stalin could realize his own
offensist plans. Stalin’s long-range planning, in fact, called for
eventually trumping the Nazi dictator’s control of Europe—the
continent that both Lenin and Stalin had long sought for themselves and
the cause of world revolution.
With the fading of the German militarist tradition at the end of
World War II and with the birth of a democratic Germany, Russian
admiration of Germany has by no means ceased. It was already visible
in the time of Brezhnev in the 1970s. In the present, post-Communist
period in Russia, Moscow’s ties with Germany can be described as at
least as strong as with any other Western state. Moreover, since the
coming of power of Vladimir V. Putin in 2000, this new Russian leader,
who once served as a KGB officer in East Germany and, like Lenin did,
has voiced his admiration for this key Central European state, Russo-
German amity has grown even tighter.

NOTES
The first epigraph is from Hermann Raushning, The Voice of
Destruction (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1949), p. 131.
The second is quoted in Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the
Failure of Collective Security, 1934–1938 (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1984), p. 152. Schulenburg, German ambassador to Russia, made
this astute observation at the time of the German-Czech crisis in 1938.
Hochman’s book, incidentally, provides a well-documented argument
against those observers, such as Gabriel Gorodetsky, Alvin Rubenstein,
Geoffrey Roberts, and so on, along with Soviet-period semiofficial
authors of books and articles on the history of Soviet diplomacy in the
interwar period, who take seriously Stalin’s alleged “determined”
efforts to reach collective-security agreements with the West European
powers. Such authors blame the Western governments for failing to
agree with Moscow on establishing collective security, which, they say,
was Stalin’s serious intention.
The third is from Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of
Collective Security, pp. 172–73.
1 “Reichsmarks for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” Argumenty i
Fakty, no. 3 (1992), p. 4.

2 Gerald Freund, The Unholy Alliance (London: 1957), p. 208. See


also F. L. Garsten, “The Reichswehr and the Red Army 1920–1933,”
Survey (U.K.), nos. 44–45 (October 1962), p. 92ff.

3 Yuri Dyakov and Tatyana Bushuyeva, The Red Army and the
Wehrmacht: How the Soviets Militarized Germany, 1922–1933, and
Paved the Way for Fascism, from the Secret Archives of the Former
Soviet Union (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 17. For an
analysis of early Soviet-German friendship and Lenin’s motivations for
it, see Stanley W. Page, The Geopolitics of Leninism (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1982). The author reproduces a prophetic
quote from Friedrich Engels, penned in 1882, with which Lenin, a
punctilious reader of Engels, was doubtlessly familiar: “Four hundred
years ago, Germany was the starting point of the first upheaval of the
European middle class. As things stand now, is it outside the limits of
possibility that Germany will be the scene, too, of the first great victory
of the European proletariat?” When Leninist-communist forces in
Germany set up “soviets” in several German cities in 1918, Engels’s
prophecy seemed to be in the process of fulfillment. These bolshevized
urban centers in Germany, however, were to be overturned when armed
German nationalists, organized into the proto-Nazi Freikorps,
overthrew them after only a few months’ of their reign. For additional
details of Soviet-German military collaboration, see Fritz Becker,
Stalins Blutspur durch Europa (Kiel: Arndt, 1995), pp. 179–81. Film
footage of the collaboration may be found in Stalin and Hitler:
Dangerous Liaisons. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 3 vols.
(Princeton, 1999).

4 Christopher Donnelly, Red Banner: The Soviet Military System in


Peace and War (London: Jane’s Information Group Ltd, 1988), pp. 73–
74.

5 Quoted in Domenico Settembrini, “Mussolini and Lenin,” Survey


(U.K.) 23, no. 3 (1977–78).
4

Nazi–Soviet Agreements (1939–40)

The ideological contradictions between National Socialist


Germany and the Soviet Union were in past years the sole
reason Germany and the USSR stood opposed to each other
in two separate and hostile camps. The developments of the
recent period seem to show that differing world outlooks do
not prohibit a reasonable relationship between two states,
and the restoration of cooperation of a new and friendly
type.

—German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop

The Reich Government and the Soviet Government, judging


from all experience, must count it as certain that the
capitalistic Western democracies are the unforgiving
enemies of both National Socialist Germany and of the
USSR.

—German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop

On the whole, there are only three great statesmen in the


world. Stalin, myself and Mussolini. Mussolini, the weakest,
has not been able to break either with the power of the
Crown or of the Church. Stalin and I are the only ones that
see only the future.

—Adolf Hitler

In the case of an armed showdown between Germany and the


Western democracies, the interests of the Soviet Union and
of Germany would certainly run parallel to each other. The
Soviet Union would never stand for Germany’s getting into a
difficult position.

—Josef Stalin

Ekh, together with the Germans we would have been


invincible.

—Josef Stalin

We don’t have a mutual assistance pact with the Germans,


but if the English and the French declared war on us, we
would fight alongside the Germans.

—Josef Stalin, to the Turkish minister of foreign affairs,


October 1, 1939

The hatred Stalin felt toward England was much more


intense than his hatred of Hitler. He considered the British
Empire to be the bastion of capitalist civilization. He was
convinced that the destruction of this fortress would help
spread Communist forces worldwide.

The twentieth century, rivaling all other centuries in surprises,


delivered to mankind a number of world-historical shocks and wake-up
calls. In 1914 the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and
the modern world’s bloodiest war to date got the century off to a tragic
start. Then followed the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the demise
of the 300-yearlong dynasty of the Romanovs, who had ruled the
world’s largest, most resource-rich country and contiguous empire
stretching over eleven time zones. This was followed by the Bolshevik
seizure of power in Russia and the establishment of history’s first
totalitarian state. This set a grim precedent that other such autocratic,
totalitarian regimes followed in Italy and Germany in the twentieth
century. Their leaders duly admitted their indebtedness to the
Bolsheviks.
In the third decade of the century, the Far East ignited in war as
Japan began forcibly expanding its empire to the Asian mainland—to
Korea, Manchuria, and all of China as well as southward to Southeast
Asia. It euphemistically called this ambitious enterprise a “Co-
Prosperity Sphere.” Besides threatening Soviet Russia and the British
Empire in Asia, Japanese expansionism, now marching in step with the
German–Italian Axis in Europe by virtue of a tripartite agreement with
those countries, was to cause another great shock: its attack against the
United States at Pearl Harbor.
Before that momentous event the world had been staggered by three
other incredible shocks: first, the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact,
announced seemingly out of the blue in August 1939, which created an
alliance between the world’s two most powerful totalitarian states. Out
of this agreement came the secret Soviet–German plans to jointly
invade and destroy Poland while giving a nod to Stalin to expand the
Soviet Empire further to the west—north in the Baltic region and south
bordering Rumania.
Above all, the Soviets under Stalin also agreed eagerly to supply
Hitler with the raw materials that he required in order to conquer most
of Western, democratic Europe. Destruction of European and British-
imperial “plutocracy,” the two sides agreed, was a common goal shared
by the an-tiplutocrat, “socialist” regimes of both Hitler and Stalin.
With the German and Soviet invasions of Poland in September 1939
came British and French declarations of war against Germany, marking
the formal start of World War II. The war was to turn into a much
bloodier, world-girdling conflict than even the preceding Great War.
On March 10, 1939, six months before the war began, Stalin declared
openly at the Eighteenth Communist Party Congress that World War II
had already begun. 1
As the midcentury point approached, the world was in for still
another huge shock. Within twenty-one months of the signing of the
Nazi–Soviet pacts, the first partner of the emerging German–Soviet
alliance launched a large-scale invasion against the second partner’s
country on June 22, 1941. This started the second war that Stalin was to
call the “Great Fatherland War” (sometimes translated the “Great
Patriotic War”). The latter was World War II’s war-within-a-war on the
Eastern Front that took upward of 35 million civilian and military lives
on the Soviet side alone.
When this war ended amid the usual postwar calls for “no more
wars,” Stalin and the Soviet Union resumed the pursuit of Soviet
expansionism approximately where it had left off before June 1941.
The “buffer” territory seized by the Soviets to the west of its frontiers
in 1940—deemed by Moscow and fellow travelers abroad merely as
insurance in order to absorb any future German attack—was absorbed
into the USSR. It became permanently sovietized as a part of the ever
expanding Soviet Empire. Then began a period of additional expansion
and determined sovietization in Eastern, Central, and Southeastern
Europe.
In other words, another “struggle,” to use the Soviet term, had begun.
This one was a cold one but a Cold War with very hot overtones and
violent episodes, such as the Soviet-supported proxy conflicts fought
on the Korean and Vietnamese Peninsulas in the 1950s and 1960s. Over
100 other conflicts, as tabulated in the 1970s by the Yugoslav paper
Polytika, were also part of the post–World War II landscape. All these
wars, the paper says, had a Marxist-Leninist edge to them.
To some observers it seemed in retrospect that, as far as Stalin and
the “lodestar” of Marxism-Leninism were concerned, World War II and
the “strange alliance” in it of East and West against the common Axis
foe had only been a passing interlude. It appeared that the Soviet
dictator was serious when he remarked to the Yugoslav Communist
aide, Milovan Djilas, in Moscow in 1946 that soon, as he put it, “We’ll
have another go at it”—meaning another “big war”—World War III—a
war that, as Molotov said of the preceding big war in an interview in
the 1980s, would further “extend socialism” worldwide.

SOVIET–GERMAN FEELERS
In the previous chapter, I surveyed the beginnings under Lenin and
Stalin of a deepening German–Russian relationship after World War I.
These ties were being forged, as we saw, on the basis of several uniting
principles. The lines of magnetic attraction involved the two countries’
uniquely common interests: political, military, and economic (trade).
Yet this process seemed to be abruptly interrupted by the coming to
power of Hitler and one-party rule under his National Socialist German
Worker’s Party (the Nazis). In calling such a regime “fascist” (a term
borrowed from Italy’s own dictatorship under the Fascisti “Black
Shirts”) and terming it an “advanced stage” of imperialistic capitalism,
Stalinite Russia, it appeared, had thereby put itself on a collision course
with this new regime that was now ensconced in the Soviets’ “favorite”
Central European country of Germany.
But the ideological gulf seemingly opening between the two states
after 1933, while real in certain respects, was in a bigger sense a
chimera, a figment of propaganda but not a substantial element of
Realpolitik. Their mutual animosity—anti-Soviet and antifascist—in
any case was soon to dissolve. More tangible factors would draw the
two nation-state dictatorships together.
How did this process start? Surprisingly, it actually started early on
with the consolidation of the Hitler regime in Berlin in 1933. It was
taking place even as Hitler was haranguing the Reichstag with
fulminations against the “Jewish Bolshevists.” Yet in a speech on
March 23,1933, Hitler declared significantly that “the struggle with
Communism in Germany is our internal affair.... Our political
relationship to other powers with whom we have common interests will
not be affected by this.”2 This was a clear signal directed at Moscow
and was received as such. It indicated, namely, that ideological
differences between the two states need not interfere with their long-
standing common interests. (For the earlier origins of these ties, see
chapter 3.)
A number of other straws in the wind in the early 1930s likewise
pointed in a friendly direction as concerned Moscow and Berlin. This
process began when initiatives began emanating from the Soviet side,3
as per the following events:
In 1933–34 Lev Lebedev, a Communist Party Central Committee
apparatchik in Moscow, visited Berlin on a secret mission to study
Gestapo techniques. This was followed by transfer to the Germans
of the table of organization used by the Soviet Commissariat of
Internal Affairs (NKVD) for establishing Soviet labor camps as
well as the design for mobile, poison gas “liquidation wagons,”
invented in the USSR and used against recalcitrant peasants in
Stalin’s collectivization drive.4
According to Leon Gelfand, former counselor at the Soviet
embassy in Rome, who defected to the United States in 1941,
“Stalin had been obsessed with the idea of an agreement with
Germany since 1933.”5
On a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, on
December 21, 1935, Sergei Bessonov suggested openly that it
would be highly desirable if the neutrality agreement signed
between Germany and Soviet Russia in 1926 were supplemented
by a “mutual nonaggression pact,” as official German documents
from the period show. Bessonov again brought up this idea to
German officials in July 1936.6 In this it is clear, of course, that no
Soviet official, especially one on assignment in a foreign country,
would ever make such bold statements unless they were approved
by the Kremlin.
Ex-Soviet security officer Walter Krivitsky relates that in 1936
one A. Slutsky, chief of a foreign intelligence section of the
Russian secret police, confided in him, “We have set our course
towards an early understanding with Hitler and have started
negotiations.”7
In December 1936 and February 1937 David Kandelaki, Soviet
trade emissary with the cover designation of “Commercial
Attaché” and one of Stalin’s personal aides, had an audience with
Hitler’s finance overseer, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht. Kandelaki read a
statement, presumably coming directly from Stalin, that said in
effect that Soviet-German trade should be stepped up sharply
while with it a bold improvement should be made in overall
Soviet-German relations.8

There were several other wrinkles in the pre-1939 “feelers” period


that signaled significant rapprochement between Moscow and Berlin.
Some of the initiatives originated on the Soviet side, others, on the
German.9 But the milestone year in the process of forming a Soviet-
German alliance, of course, was 1939. Early in that year Stalin sounded
the first undeniable hint, a hint so strong that during the later Nazi–
Soviet negotiations in Moscow in August 1939 Ribbentrop specifically
referred to it favorably. So did Stalin.
Speaking from the rostrum of the Eighteenth Party Congress in the
Bolshoi Theater, March 10, Stalin made some startling statements.
They were delivered in the typically subtle, low-toned, droning way in
which the Soviet dictator customarily exploded his verbal bombshells.
First, Stalin blasted the Western democracies for trying to incite, he
claimed, the Soviet Union against Germany and “to poison the
atmosphere and to provoke a conflict with Germany without any visible
grounds.”10 Then, after making overtures to Germany, with which the
Soviets, he indicated, surely should have better relations than they did
presently, he dropped his classic “chestnuts-out-of-the-fire” remark,
how, he implied, the Soviets were not about to come to the aid of other
threatened capitalist states. The remark clearly indicates that Stalin was
not about to engage in any serious collective-security negotiations with
the Western capitalist states. This would be the case despite
appearances or the fond hopes nurtured among pro-Soviet observers or
officials in the West (such as British envoy and ambassador to
Moscow, Sir Stafford Cripps).
Both Austria and Czechoslovakia, after all, would have been such
“chestnuts” in 1938. In both cases, Moscow reacted more or less
disinterestedly to Hitler’s bold annexations of both of those states in
the preceding year. The fact that a country had been occupied by
Germany did not cause any radical change in Communist tactics. In
Czechoslovakia the Communists accused the government officials
there of being lackeys of French and British capitalism. In France, the
Communists spread defeatism.
Later, the memoirs of Czechoslovak and Polish diplomats show, as
the memoirists claim, a pattern of false Stalin pursuit of “collective
security.” One of these diplomats has reported that he viewed Moscow
as actually playing the role of instigator of war. He says he detected a
Soviet plan to provoke war with Germany by urging the Czechs to stand
fast against the Germans while at the same time ostentatiously offering,
and while not delivering any, military support to the former—support
that was never, in fact, forthcoming and was never intended to be.11
No such capitalist-state chestnuts would be pulled out of the fire. The
fire of future war, it seemed, was too valuable to Stalin. Or, at the very
least, he intended to keep the Soviet Union out of it until an appropriate
time.

STALIN’S GAMBIT WITH FRANCE AND


ENGLAND
Soon after Hitler came to power in 1933, the Soviet government
launched the policy of collective security. Sometimes known as the
“Litvinov policy” —it was named for Maxim M. Litvinov, whose real
name was Vallach and who served as commissar of foreign affairs from
autumn 1930 to May 1939. The policy was seemingly designed to rally
West European opposition to Hitler. That the Soviet Union would take
a truly active part in stopping Hitler in the military sense is regarded by
some latter-day historians, especially Russian scholars, as, if not
doubtful, at best problematical.
As we have seen, Stalin had opted for a policy of staying out of the
“inevitable” coming war until the last moment. At that propitious time,
he predicted, the USSR would enter the war and tip the balance in its
own favor. In his speech to the Eighteenth Party Congress, March 1939,
Stalin made a telltale accusation against the then-neutral Western
countries. He imputed to them a policy that seemed to presage the very
one designed by Stalin himself for the USSR: “The official policy of
neutrality [as pursued by France and Britain] can be described as one
that says in effect, ‘Let each country fend for itself from aggressors any
way that it can. For our part,’ it says, ‘we will trade with aggressors as
well as with their victims.’ In reality, however, the policy of
noninvolvement means giving a go-ahead to aggressive war.”
The case of Czechoslovakia, which was abandoned to the Nazis by
the Western powers after the Munich Agreement of 1938, is instructive
in terms of illustrating Soviet policy. The Soviet Union itself made no
concrete effort to defend Czechoslovakia when it became obvious that
the Wehrmacht would settle the issue of the so-called oppressed
German population in the Czechoslovak territory of the Sudetenland.
For their part the Germans were well aware of Moscow’s uninterest in
defending Czechoslovakia. German Ambassador to the USSR
Schulenburg observed at the time:

The Russians are not making great efforts. [It is obviously]


no pleasant thought for them to have to go to war on account
of Czechoslovakia.... The Soviet Government, with an eye on
the internal situation in Russia and fearing a war on two
fronts, must hold aloof from military enterprises for the time
being.... It follows, therefore, [their] proved tactics of
mobilizing other powers, particularly France, against its
foes, or fomenting those conflicts which do break out—as
for example in Spain and China—by delivering war
materiel, and of spreading [such conflicts] as much as
possible by political agitation and intrigues of all kinds.12

As though to buttress its collective-security policy, the USSR in


September 1934 became a member of the League of Nations—which
Lenin had called a “band of robbers” and an “imperialist conspiracy”
directed against the Soviet Union. This had been a long-standing Soviet
ideological line that undoubtedly reflected basic Soviet uninterest in
collective efforts against aggression launched under the league aegis.
For his part, Stalin reiterated this basic Bolshevik attitude toward the
league. Yet, for the USSR to have influence in Europe, league
membership was an obvious prerequisite. During the short time the
USSR was a member, it used the international forum largely as a
sounding board for Soviet propaganda and as a way of contrasting the
“good” Soviet Union with the “bad” capitalist states (not unlike Soviet
policy in the United Nations Organization after World War II).
Also, Moscow supported the French proposal, put forward in 1934 by
Premier and Foreign Minister Louis Barthou, for an “Eastern Locarno”
pact. By its terms the USSR was to take over France’s obligations to
defend her “allies,” Poland and Czechoslovakia, if they were attacked
by Germany. However, neither of these two countries, nor indeed any
other East European state, wanted or requested direct Soviet military
aid. Least of all did Poland want such Soviet assistance, given her
experience with Russian domination and an offensive Soviet war waged
against her just fifteen years before in 1920. (Czechoslovakia was
willing to accept Soviet help—but only if France helped first.)
Furthermore, Germany did not want to sign any such pact, nor would
Great Britain support it unless Germany did. In any case, Barthou was
most interested in an alliance with the USSR. He and successive French
governments saw this as a diplomatic means of keeping Hitler in check.
So, although it is true that Polish opposition counted for something, it
was not decisive in the failure of the Eastern Locarno or “Eastern
security pact” project.
Evidence brought forward by historians in recent years seems
convincing, moreover, by demonstrating that Stalin never seriously
considered collective security to be anything more than a ploy to
involve the West European capitalist nations, sans the USSR, in an
effort to block Hitler. Collective actions undoubtedly would entail the
kind of intra- or intercapitalist state war that Stalin, like Lenin before
him, expected as a means of defeating “capitalist imperialism” and
eliminating the so-called capitalist encirclement of the Soviet Union. It
would also ensure the latter’s domination of the Continent, as top
NKVD foreign intelligence officer at the time, Pavel Sudoplatov,
frankly points out in his memoirs.
Furthermore, France and Britain did not see eye to eye on Germany;
they had not agreed on this point since 1919. In early May 1935, on its
own France signed an alliance with the Soviet Union, and so did
Czechoslovakia. These alliances were interconnected but, significantly,
were not accompanied by military conventions. Their primary goal was
to deter Hitler by diplomatic means from using force but not to fight
him. This was partly because the French did not have a high opinion of
Soviet military power and partly, too, because they mistrusted the
Soviets. In any case, the distrust was mutual. Just as important was the
fact that France was committed to the doctrine of a “defensive war”
protecting its own territory, not another’s. Under Popular Front rule,
France was hardly “war minded.”
At the same time, Benes, as foreign minister and later president of
Czechoslovakia, inserted into the Czechoslovak–Soviet Pact of 1935
the provision that the USSR would help his country only if France did
so first. He assumed that this condition would secure French military
aid while averting accusations that Czechoslovakia was pro-
Communist.
For its part, London, disagreeing with the French approach to
Germany, sought above all not to antagonize Germany. On the contrary,
under Prime Minister Chamberlain’s administration, Britain wanted to
reach some sort of settlement with Berlin that would somehow ward off
war anywhere on the Continent. In fact, London was fundamentally
opposed to concluding any peacetime alliances with any countries,
even with France. The British regarded themselves primarily as an
imperial power with overseas interests. To pursue these interests while
maintaining their empire, the British needed peace, not war. It was a
policy that was based in part, one might say, on the old “Manchester
Doctrine.” This principle assumes that commercial and imperial
priorities dwarf all other considerations while they also, by their
peaceful nature, preclude war.
So, in March 1935, London made only a weak protest when Hitler
restored conscription—which was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty of
1919. Moreover, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, signed in June
1935, allowed Germany to build a navy (“pocket battleships”) up to
one-third of total British surface tonnage and to an even greater
percentage in submarines. The British rationales for this step were (1)
they did not want to go to war with Germany over her violations of the
military part of the Versailles Treaty, whose revision they considered
inevitable; (2) they believed it would take Germany years, in any case,
to challenge the British navy; and (3) they assumed that Hitler would
honor agreements he had signed or if not, as a result, lose face. This
belief, of course, reflected British thinking, not Hitler’s.
At the same time, the naval agreement reflected widespread British
pacifism as well as the view that swift rearmament would be disastrous
to trade, which was, after all, the lifeblood of Britain. British public
opinion, expressed as late as summer 1939, strongly opposed British
involvement in war (this was to change dramatically within a year).
Chamberlain’s much criticized policy (pilloried in the famous
American musical comedy of the time, The Red Mikado) nevertheless
reflected this public sentiment, which can be seen in the results of
public opinion polls held in England in that era. Popular sentiment in
France was similar.
Another important consideration was the danger of Japanese
expansion in the Far East. This constituted a threat to British et al.
colonial possessions and interests there. At the same time Anglo-Italian
relations were endangered by the aggressive Italian dictator, Benito
Mussolini. Speaking of a new “Roman Empire,” he was ready to use
force to acquire Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Indeed, il Duce’s forces, after
launching brutal aerial bombing attacks, invaded this country in
October 1935.
This overall state of affairs led the British chiefs of staff to advise
the civilian government that Britain, in its essentially weak military
condition, could not simultaneously fight Italy in the Mediterranean,
Japan in the Far East, and Germany on the Continent. Britain was in no
shape to fight any of the three powers singly and certainly not a group
of them at once. Finally, it should borne in mind that not until 1939 did
the British choose to consider an alliance even with France against Nazi
Germany. Still less did it seek an alliance with her putative East
European “allies” such as Poland, and least of all with the USSR.
The goal of British policy was a European settlement agreeable to
Berlin. Until about 1936, British statesmen, such as Prime Minister
Chamberlain, believed that such a settlement would avert a European
war. Later, by 1938–39, while still hoping to save the peace, the British
by now—among much of the officialdom, at least—were more than
aware of war dangers. They wanted to gain time for gradual British
rearmament. The latter policy was strongly advocated by Winston
Churchill, Conservative Party rival of Chamberlain.
Meanwhile, however, by assenting to a buildup of the German navy
(even though it was expected to take a long time), Britain indicated that
she did not care if the Baltic Sea were dominated by Germany, albeit
Germany could then threaten Poland and the Baltic states, not to
mention the USSR. The fact is that Britain was not all that seriously
concerned about the security of Eastern Europe. This “remote” region,
after all, had never played a major role in the scheme of British trade or
foreign policy. As a result, most British statesmen believed that it was
not a sphere of Britain’s truly vital interests. Instead, they viewed
Eastern Europe as a natural sphere of German influence provided
British trade was not excluded. However, this reservation seems to have
been mainly a matter of prestige with London. Eastern Europe
accounted for only 2 percent of total British foreign trade.
For their part, it would seem that the Soviets—Stalin and Molotov in
particular—interpreted London’s policy to mean tacit British support
for German eastern expansion. This Stalin saw as being directed
primarily at the USSR. Yet this may not have been the case at all. At
any rate, it has never been proved. On the other hand, one can question
Soviet sincerity and ask if the Soviets on their part were serious in
calling for overarching “collective security” to prevent such German
expansion. Had they been serious, would they have erected so many
verbal impediments to its realization? Would they have left
Czechoslovakia in the lurch when the Wehrmacht got on the move?
Any alliance, collective-security arrangements, and so on with the
Western capitalist nations were, in any case, anathema to Stalin.
Obviously, he had other fish to fry.
Doubt about Soviet motives at the time, moreover, arises from the
fact, for instance, that the ink was hardly dry on the Franco-Soviet
alliance of May 2, 1935, when Litvinov—ironically, titular spokesman
for collective security—himself suggested to the German ambassador
in Moscow, Count Friedrich von Schulenburg, that now was the time to
improve German–Soviet relations by concluding a mutual
nonaggression pact.13 Other pro-German Soviet initiatives followed
(see chapter 3). One might thus conclude that Stalin supported
collective security merely as a means of pressuring Hitler to cut a deal
with the Soviet Union. This was a form of “blackmail,” as several
Russian and some Western authors have suggested.
To judge from Litvinov’s proposal, Stalin seems as early as 1935,
perhaps even as early as 1933, to have envisaged a pact with Germany.
So might one assume from examining the papers of Karl Radek,
Stalin’s secret go-between with Berlin. (Radek was among the purge
victims of 1936–37, many of whom knew too much for their own
good.) This proposal would be renewed at the turn of 1936–37. It
finally bore fruit, as we will see in the next section, in the German–
Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939.

THE WATERSHED YEAR


In the crucial year of 1939, however, not only did Germany and Soviet
Russia make concerted approaches to each other, many of them in
secret. Simultaneously, Stalin began to respond, it now appears
disingenuously, to intense British and French feelers aimed at possibly
closing ranks with Stalin in opposing Hitler. The latter by now was all
but universally perceived as a menace to peace. As Russian historian
Edvard Radzinsky writes, from Stalin’s vantage point “Hitler was
really drawing Europe into war and Germany would bring down in
ruins the whole capitalist system. It was no longer a [Marxist-Leninist]
mirage, no longer a dream—world revolution was advancing on
empire. All that was needed was to egg Hitler on.”14 NKVD foreign
intelligence officer Pavel Sudoplatov, as we saw, confirms this Stalin
ploy in his memoirs.
Thus, Stalin began playing a new game well beyond the frontiers of
his own country and its “geopolitical borderlands.” Besides opening the
way to an accord with Germany, the Soviet dictator began simultaneous
negotiations with France and England—in effect, creating a kind of
ersatz “Popular Front at the top.” This was a “typical Stalin ploy,”
Radzinsky writes. He continues:

He knew in advance that the Western democracies [against


which he had directed so many venomous attacks] would
never trust the new Genghis Khan. He inspired in them only
fear and revulsion. The talks [between the French and British
and the Soviets in Moscow] were meant to gain leverage on
Hitler. This gambit worked. Fearing an alliance between
Stalin and the Western democracies, Hitler was soon
responding to Soviet advances.
The customary fulminations against the USSR
disappeared from official German statements, and the
campaign of mutual insult petered out. A New phase had
begun: the irreconcilable foes seemed to have stopped
noticing each other.

In midsummer 1939, Hitler told Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef


Goebbels that he no longer expected London and Moscow ever to reach
an agreement. “That leaves the way open for us,” Goebbels wrote in his
unpublished diary: “Stalin doesn’t want either a won or lost war. In
either case, he’d be history.”15
Goebbels cleverly ordered German editors not to express glee at
Stalin’s stalling of the Anglo-French negotiations in Moscow or to
comment on differences emerging between Moscow and Tokyo.
Newspapers were also told to ignore German–Soviet trade talks. After
the first, August 23 Nazi–Soviet agreement, Goebbels’s comment was
laconic: “How times change,” he wrote.
However, a few weeks later Hitler fully described to Goebbels the
deal he had made with Stalin. To the Führer, “the question of
Bolshevism,” Goebbels wrote in his diary, “is for the time being of
lesser importance.” Then to the press he controlled Goebbels ordered:
“You can indicate that the purpose of this [nonaggression] pact is to
enable Germany and Russia alone to settle all outstanding problems in
the Lebensraum [living space] between them, i.e., in eastern Europe....
Newspapers are permitted to display a degree of Schadenfreude
[malicious pleasure], though not in their editorial columns.”
Nineteen thirty-nine, as already indicated, was the cardinal year in
the process of forming an active Soviet–German alliance. Early that
year it was Stalin who sounded the first undeniable hint of impending
Soviet–German rapprochement at the highest level. It was a hint so
strong that during the Nazi–Soviet negotiations in Moscow in August
1939, Ribbentrop in Stalin’s presence specifically referred back to it as
the spur to Hitler that got rapprochement going between Germany and
the USSR. To Ribbentrop’s observation, Stalin replied, “That was
precisely my intention.”16
Speaking from the rostrum of the Eighteenth Party Congress in the
Bolshoi Theater on March 10, 1939, Stalin made his several startling
statements. He had entirely rewritten the draft of the speech he was to
give and that had been prepared for him, as usual, by the
Administrative Department of the Communist Party Central
Committee. The gist of his speech was the following:
The French and British were trying to poison relations between the
USSR and Germany by means of “malicious rumors.” In fact, he
went on, nothing stands in the way of sharply improving those
relations.
He reassured his audience that Germany had no base designs
against Soviet Russia, least of all any plans to seize the Ukraine.
Referring to Western hopes of Soviet cooperation in stopping
Hitler and dashing such hopes to pieces, Stalin bluntly asserted:
“We will not allow our country to be drawn into conflicts by
warmongers [podzhigatel’yami voiny] who are accustomed to
getting others to pull chestnuts out of the fire for them.”17

To make sure Berlin understood what Stalin was saying in Aesopian


language between the lines, he ordered the Soviet press to soften its
“antiFascist” line. Then he made an undeniably friendly gesture: On
May 3 he fired Maxim Litvinov, formerly promoted as a collective-
security advocate, as longtime Soviet commissar of foreign affairs.
Stalin even removed him from the Central Committee. In Litvinov’s
place he appointed his closest aide, Vyacheslav Molotov (real name
Scriabin, a Great Russian, who was untainted in Nazi eyes because he
was not, as Litivinov was, Jewish; that Molotov was married to a
Jewish woman was of little concern). As soon he was in charge of that
ministry, Molotov (who had in any case supervised the ministry for
many years) weeded out some of the deputy commissars and other
officials closely associated with Litvinov. (As we will see, Litvinov,
always willing to oblige The Boss, was later—after the German attack
on the USSR in June 1941—brought out of limbo and appointed
ambassador to the United States. By that time it was useful to have
such a personality in Washington helping to arrange Lend-Lease aid for
Soviet Russia.)
Berlin got this politically telegraphed message, too. During the Nazi-
Soviet honeymoon German officials acknowledged that the departure
of Litvinov (as well as that of the Jewish Soviet ambassador to Berlin,
Georgi Astakhov) was welcome news. It signified, they concluded, that
Stalin was adopting a form of “national Bolshevism” and was virtually
“de-ideologizing” his foreign policy and returning it to a “non-Jewish-
Bolshevik, Great Russian orientation” without global pretensions. This,
obviously, was a foolish assumption on the Germans’ part. The details
and events immediately leading up to signing the final Nazi–Soviet
Nonaggression Pact are related in many books. A brief summary
follows here.
Marshal Voroshilov had been assigned to sounding out the Germans
on the precise designs of the ensuing agreements; Molotov, too, was
active in the preparatory period of July and early August. All told, two
major pacts and several other agreements together with several secret
protocols came out of the August–September negotiations in Moscow
in which Stalin personally always played a key role. (Documents made
available to researchers since 1991 show a pattern of the Soviet
dictator’s deep, personal involvement in all aspects of Soviet foreign
policy as well as defense policy.)
Before the memorable day of August 23 arrived, Stalin ordered all
talks with the French and the British—this “silly game,” as he called
the negotiations—to be terminated. Diplomats such as the pro-Soviet
British Ambassador Sir Stafford Cripps were enraged and disillusioned.
They had tried for months to win Stalin over, little suspecting that the
Soviet dictator, as it turned out, had bigger game in his cross hairs.
Such talks with the British and French by now, of course, had become
pointless if they were not from the start.
First came the Soviet–German Nonaggression Pact, signed on August
23. The secret protocol attached to it, whose existence was denied by
the Soviets up to and during the Gorbachev period of putative
glasnost’, was designated top secret (sovershenno sekretno)—and for
good reason. The Polish state was to be utterly destroyed. Its corpse
was to be divided in two—Germany acquiring the western half and the
Soviets, the eastern, but with the eastern demarcation line drawn to
Soviet advantage considerably further west of the old post–World War
I “Curzon Line.”
Furthermore, with Germany’s blessing, Moscow won its long-prized
“spheres of influence” in the Baltic region as well as to the south
bordering Rumania. (Previous attempts under Lenin in 1918 to
sovietize the Baltics had failed; the three countries had been
independent ever since; Lenin, earlier in 1917, had disingenuously
acknowledged their independence.) This meant that soon Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania would be absorbed into the Soviet Union, thus
increasing the number of Soviet republics to sixteen. Bessarabia, to
which Stalin laid claim without any historical basis for it, likewise was
assigned to the Soviet sphere and was duly absorbed in 1940 to become
the thirteenth Soviet republic, the Moldavian SSR. Thus, what publicly
was touted as a “nonaggression pact” actually turned out to be a deal
for joint Soviet-German carving up and occupation of foreign lands.
The pact was duly ratified by the rubberstamping Soviet
“parliament,” the USSR Supreme Soviet, at its next meeting, on August
31. In his speech to the assembly, Molotov described the pact as being
“in the interests of universal peace [that every sincere supporter of
peace will realize].... It is a turning-point in the history of Europe, and
not only of Europe.” Within a month that same speaker was to
announce that Poland “has ceased to exist as a state.” Too, it was ironic
that the text of the first Nazi-Soviet agreement, unlike the texts of other
nonaggression treaties signed by Moscow with several other countries
in the 1920s and 1930s, stated that the provisions should apply only in
the case of defensive war. This suggested that if either Germany or the
Soviet Union launched an offensive war against whatever other state, it
would not affect their agreement.
The “booty” thus acquired by the USSR by 1940 via its deal with
Germany was considerable: at least 130,000 square miles of land,
counting Carpathian Ruthenia, where the Soviets were granted
sovereignty. Populations in the new territories totaled about
16,000,000. Stalin himself had predicted the Soviet rationale for such
seizures. Back in 1920 he had written:

Central Russia, that hearth of World Revolution, cannot hold


out long without assistance from the border regions [former
territories of the tsarist empire], which abound in raw
materials, fuel, and foodstuffs. The border regions of Russia
in their turn are inevitably doomed to imperialist bondage
unless they undergo the political, military, and
organizational support of the more developed Central
Russia.18

Before the next major Nazi–Soviet agreement was concluded in mid-


September, Poland had been invaded by the Wehrmacht—on
September 1. Two days later Ambassador Schulenburg agreed with
Molotov that the Red Army should move into the territory designated
as the “Russian sphere of influence.” However, the “sphere of
influence” became annexed Soviet territory.

NAZI–SOVIET PACT DETAILS


When the two sides got down to business in August, amid friendly
toasts and extravagant ceremonies staged by the Soviets for the visiting
German emissary, Joachim von Ribbentrop, two major agreements with
their secret protocols followed:
The Treaty of Nonaggression, known as the Nonaggression Pact,
was signed on August 23, 1939. By its terms each side pledged not
to attack or support an attack against and not to ally itself with any
group of powers directed against the other contracting party. Each
promised to consult the other on all questions of common interest.
A secret protocol was attached to the pact that established the
northern boundary for Lithuania, an independent, sovereign state,
so that German and Soviet spheres of influence would be divvied
up between the two powers. Likewise with sovereign, independent
Poland, its boundary was redrawn so that its western half at the
rivers Narew, Vistula, and San would fall to Germany while the
eastern portion would fall to the Soviet—details of which were to
be settled later “by friendly agreement.” Germany declared her
“disinterestedness” in the Soviet demand that Bessarabia fall
under Soviet “influence” but had not intended that the Soviets
would usurp Lithuania as they did in August 1940. (Between
August 4 and August 6, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia became the
fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth union republics, respectively.)
The Soviet-German trade agreement was signed on August 19 and
then augmented and reaffirmed on August 29, and two days later
the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. Soon from the USSR the Germans
were receiving oil, phosphate, food, platinum, and other raw
materials in exchange for German machines, machine tools, and
munitions. Over 50 percent of Soviet foreign trade at this time was
with Nazi Germany.
By September 6, foreign observers noticed a diametrical shift in
Soviet propaganda. It began to assume to a friendly, pro-German
stance while the Western powers, England, and France,
Czechoslovakia, and others were scorned in the Soviet press.
Later, when the German Army triumphantly entered the Polish
capital of Warsaw, Moscow sent its hearty congratulations to
Berlin.
On September 9, the Kremlin indicated that Soviet military action
against Poland would begin in “several days.” On September 14,
Molotov asked Berlin to clarify when exactly it thought Warsaw
would fall and Poland would collapse so that Moscow could say
that Russian minorities would be “protected.” Then, on September
16, Molotov stated that Soviet military action in eastern Poland
was “imminent.”
On September 17, Stalin announced that the Red Army would
cross the Polish frontier that day, which it did, occupying its
(larger) half of Poland, whose boundary, as noted, was jointly
drawn to Soviet advantage west of the Curzon Line. On September
20, Molotov proposed that the Soviet Union and Germany should
finalize their joint Soviet–German destruction and occupation of
Poland, or “Polish settlement,” as they termed it euphemistically,
respecting the former Polish state that was now moribund. On
October 1, 1939, Stalin sent Hitler a congratulatory telegram in
which he stated: “The friendship of Germany and the Soviet
Union, sealed in blood, has the necessary foundation upon which
to become long-term and solid.” In remarks to members of the
Comintern on September 7, 1939, and in his address to the
Politburo on the same day, Stalin observed with typical sangfroid:

The war is going on between the two groups of capitalist


countries—namely, the poor ones vs. the rich ones for
colonies, sources of raw materials, etc.—is for the
redivision of the world, for world domination! We have
no objection if they fight very hard and weaken one
another. It’s not bad at all if at the hands of Germany the
wealthiest capitalist countries are shattered and the
capitalist system undermined.... We can maneuver and
instigate one against the other so that they can fight
against each other all the better. The nonaggression pact
[with Germany] to a degree helps Germany. But at the
next moment it instigates one against the other.19

Thus followed on September 28 the second major Soviet–German


agreement of 1939: the German–Soviet Boundary and Friendship
Treaty. As with the first pact, this one was accompanied by a
secret protocol respecting the status of Lithuania and other
matters. The protocol also affirmed joint Soviet–German
suppression of any hostile “agitation” within Polish society. This
“suppression” took the usual harsh Soviet and German forms. The
Katyn Forest Massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD
troops is one such example. Like the very existence of the secret
Nazi–Soviet protocols, the Katyn Massacre was vehemently
denied by Soviet authorities (as well as by foreign fellow
travelers) right up to and during the Gorbachev period after 1984.
An apparently major spin-off for the Germans from the secret
protocols was use of a northern naval base on Soviet territory near
Murmansk known as Basis Nord. The Germans were given the
right to use the base facilities for their surface naval ships and
submarines. As a specialist on Hitler’s northern war has observed,
“The securing of a Soviet base illustrated the ability of the
Germans and Soviets to work together in accordance with the
secret Protocols and to labor toward the implementation of their
cozy agreement—the division of Europe.”20
Other cooperative Soviet–German talks and agreements followed
in late 1939 and early 1940. The most important of these was the
German–Soviet Commercial Agreement signed in Moscow on
February 11, 1940. By this deal, the Soviets were to ship billions
of Reichsmarks’ worth of war-related materials and goods to the
Germans. These were freighted to Brest-Litovsk, then offloaded
from the wide-gauge Soviet railroad cars to freight cars on the
narrower-gauge tracks and hauled west to Germany. In the first
eighteen months following the signing of this important
agreement, the following were shipped to the Germans:

1,000,000 tons of grain for cattle plus legumes valued at


120 million Reichsmarks;
900,000 tons of mineral oil costing about 115 million
Reichsmarks; 2
00,000 tons of cotton costing approximately 90 million
Reichsmarks;
500,000 tons of phosphates;
100,000 tons of chrome ore;
500,000 tons of iron ores;
300,000 tons of scrap metal and pig iron;
2,000 kilograms of platinum; and manganese ore,
metals, lumber, rubber, and numerous other raw
materials including especially grain.

In addition the Russians granted Germany the right of transit for


German traffic to and from Rumania, Iran, Afghanistan, and other
countries of the Near and Far East. Russian freight rates for any
foodstuffs purchased by the Germans from Manchukuo (under
Japanese occupation) were reduced by 50 percent.
The goods received in return by the USSR from Germany as
part of the trade deal did not substantially enhance the Soviets’
defense posture. One such example is the German “gift” of the
unfinished German battle cruiser, the Lutzow (whose design
resembled that of the Bismarck). It had been towed through the
Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland to Leningrad. The work on the
cruiser by German engineers, assigned to the project, continued
for over a year until it was “interrupted” by the German attack of
June 22,1941. By the end of the war in 1945 the unfinished hulk of
this German ship lay on the bottom of the gulf near Leningrad.

CARVING UP THE WORLD


One of the most intriguing aspects of the Nazi–Soviet negotiations and
discussions during 1940 were those that revolved about joint German–
Soviet “carving up of the world” into zones of influence. Such vast
concepts became part of the cooperative, “geopolitical” discussions
that took place between Molotov and Ribbentrop in Berlin in November
1940. The deception in such talks on the German foreign minister’s
part only became known later. (For instance, on November 12,1940,
Hitler had issued his secret “Instruction No. 18” to prepare for war in
the east “irrespective of the results yielded by these discussions [with
Molotov in Berlin].”)21 After the war the secret documents revealed
Hitler’s earlier decision in July 1940 to consider an attack on the
USSR. Ribbentrop himself had been let in on this decision. Yet he
presented Molotov with an invitation to join the Axis (that also
included Japan), which Molotov dispassionately said “interested” him.
It was the Soviets who proffered a draft of a proposal for such a joint
Soviet–Nazi redivision of the world. By its terms the USSR would
become a formal ally of the three other Axis powers (the concept of
Quadripartite Axis); Moscow proposed that this could become an
additional “secret protocol.” In the Soviet draft of this protocol, which
was to become part of the Nazi–Soviet global carve-up, it was stated
that Soviet “territorial aspirations center south of the national territory
of the Soviet Union in the direction of the Indian Ocean.” Later this
was refined by both sides to read in the concluding phrase “south of
Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf.” Stalin
obviously had his eye, as Peter the Great had 200 years before, on
warm-water egress into the Indian Ocean. (Russia has historically
resented being “locked out of the seas” by ice in the north, by
Copenhagen guarding egress from the Baltic Sea to the west, and in the
south where the Turkish Straits potentially block Russian exit from the
Black Sea.)

NEW TENSIONS
Such an agreement for a Quadripartite Pact including the Axis powers
and Soviet Russia never materialized. It seems not to have been
realized largely because of new demands put on the Germans by
Moscow, the latter prioritizing these demands in the short term above
the Soviet–Axis global carve-up of the long term. The new, barbed
Soviet demands were mixed with complaints about German moves in
closing ranks with Finland, which had been the victim of Soviet
aggression from December 1939 to March 1940 and which sought
German aid.
Molotov made other demands, especially concerning the Balkans.
Among other things he stipulated that Bulgaria should be part of the
Soviet security sphere. A Soviet military base should be built at the
Dardanelles. Both Italy and Germany should assist the Soviet Union in
realizing its goals in the Balkans and at the straits, especially if Turkey
should resist Soviet pressures toward the latter. “Hitler had every
reason to fear,” writes historian Ernst Topitsch,

that as soon as their present wishes were granted, the Soviets


would be making new and even more dangerous demands....
Molotov’s further extravagant claims amounted to nothing
less than an encircling movement from Poland to the
Balkans—one which would have made a successful defense
against [Soviet] attack from the east impossible, and which
would reduce Germany’s role from representative to
satellite.22

Dimitrov recorded in his diary on November 25 that Molotov had


remarked to him, upon the latter’s return from Berlin, that “our
relations with the Germans look lively but there exist serious
differences between us.... We are pursuing a course of demoralizing the
German troops that are occupying the various countries. But we’re
going about this without shouting about it.” To which Dimitrov
responded, “But won’t this interfere with Soviet policy [toward
Germany]?” Molotov replied: “Of course. But it must be done anyway.
We wouldn’t be Communists if we didn’t follow such a course. It’s
only that it must be done quietly.”
The same day, Stalin told Dimitrov that in the event that Moscow
concluded a mutual-assistance treaty with Bulgaria and helped it
realize its own expansionist ambitions throughout the Balkans, “we
would not only not object if Bulgaria joined the Tripartite Pact [with
Italy, Germany, and Japan]. We ourselves would join it.” This was the
same date on which Molotov submitted his statement to the German
ambassador on Soviet readiness to draw up a proposal for a Four-Power
Pact that would include itself and the Axis powers—Molotov adding
some provisos (concerning Soviet “rights” to the straits and other
extravagant demands) that stunned Berlin.
In aggravating relations in this way, Stalin may have also perceived
that Germany had entered a difficult phase in the post–May 1940
period of occupying part of France and coping with British military
pressure in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. It
appeared that by autumn 1940 Nazi Germany for all intents and
purposes had reached the pinnacle of its expansionist power. It now had
to face, Moscow may have perceived, a downhill peril in the form of a
strengthened Britain and the looming danger from America.
“Interventionist” Roosevelt’s reelection in November 1940 and the
defeat of the “peace monger,” Wendell Willkie, only underlined this
perilous future for Germany.
Topitsch notes that in his meeting with Molotov in November 1940
the Führer “let slip the remark that Germany was engaged in a life-and-
death struggle with Britain”—an unusual admission on Hitler’s part.
Molotov replied that “obviously Germany was fighting for her life [but
that] Britain was fighting for her death.”
The Soviet–German relationship was further strained by German
thrusting into the Balkans. By late 1940 Molotov and Stalin on their
part were claiming this region as their own exclusive sphere of
influence. Here Rumanian oil and German access to it were on Stalin’s
mind, not to mention the strategic “lake” of the Black Sea and the
geostrategic straits providing Soviet egress from the Black Sea.
In retrospect it appears that by 1940 both sides were well aware of
the other’s ultimate war plans. As the new archival documents in
Russia now show, Stalin was on to Hitler’s Drang nach Osten war
plans. Yet he evidently thought the Germans would not launch their
attack against the USSR at least until they had defeated England in the
ongoing air battle to conquer it and in their plans to attempt an invasion
over the English Channel code named Operation Sea Lion, which was
later tabled.
Stalin may also have been aware of Germany’s relative unreadiness
as of late 1940 to wage war in the east. By the time the Wehrmacht
would be ready for further adventures, the Soviets, too, would be ready
—at least by 1942 if not earlier—to overcome any such offensive threat
from the Wehrmacht. The Soviets also were wondering, given a
German two-front war, east and west—assuming the Germans had not
yet brought England to its knees—how Hitler could possibly think he
could conquer Soviet Russia, especially considering Russia’s eleven-
time-zone breadth as well as its actual and potential military might.
However, because of faulty military intelligence and in its
overestimation of the debilitating effects of the military purges in the
USSR of 1937–38, Hitler and his military intelligence entourage had
grossly underestimated overall Soviet strength.23 Such assumptions on
Stalin’s part—known, of course, to the Germans—fed the Soviet
dictator’s doubts about the presumed imminence of a German attack by
mid-1941 (see chapter 6).

POST-SOVIET RUSSIAN HISTORY TEXTBOOKS


Tangential to the above discussion are the latter-day treatments of the
Nazi–Soviet agreements found in contemporary Russian history texts
widely read at public and private secondary school levels and in the
institutions of higher learning in today’s Russia. One of the most
salient post-Communist developments in that country—one that up to
now has received little or no attention from Western observers—has
been “operation textbook-rewrite” taking place in the Russian
Federation. One of the main topics discussed in the new texts is the
period of Nazi–Soviet collaboration.
Throughout Russia today, high school and college textbooks are
being entirely recast and rewritten. The old Soviet-period schoolbooks
and the propaganda in them, except for in a few independent schools
that choose to educate in Soviet ways, no longer are used in the public
secondary schools and in the institutions of higher learning.
I have collected a half dozen of these new texts that have been
published since 1991. As one reviews how the new volumes treat
major, “sensitive” events related to Soviet foreign relations, Marxist-
Leninist ideology, the Nazi–Soviet pacts and their secret protocols, the
Great Fatherland War, the Cold War, and so on, it soon becomes
obvious that a significant change—though not in all respects or in
similar ways in all of the new history textbooks that I have examined—
has come over Russian education. Russian society, the intellectual
community, and the state now seek to educate the youth and college-
aged men and women on subjects touching Soviet and post-Soviet
history.
One of the examined history textbooks, unlike some of the others
(see appendix 4) follows a much more conventional line on the run-up
to the signing of the Nazi–Soviet pacts of spring and summer 1939.24
The collegium of authors of this particular text, in fact, place the blame
for the failure to reach common ground with England and France on
collective-security arrangements with the USSR to oppose Hitler’s
expansionism, namely, on those two Western countries. This textbook
introduces events of this period in non-Soviet fashion as follows:

The prospect of a future war led the Soviet leadership to


mobilize domestic resources for the rapid building of heavy
industry and a well-developed military-industrial complex
which in turn further led to a harsher regime in the
country.... As a result of the Bolshevik victory in Russia
stabilizing the post-World War I correlation of forces in the
international arena could not take place.... The rise of
totalitarianism in both Russia and Germany signified their
joint rejection of universal human values.... They became
“genetically” united.

Continuing in this vein, the authors allege that the 1938 Munich
appeasement policy of France and England, the passive “wait-and-see
attitude” toward Hitler’s Germany assumed by both countries, and
“above all, their attempt to use Germany against the Bolshevik threat
merely increased Hitler’s appetite.... Munich was a gigantic
miscalculation on the part of Western diplomacy and opened the door
to military expansion of fascism bringing nearer the beginning of a ‘big
war’ in Europe.” The Russian authors then claim that, given the
appeasement policy and the West’s rejection of Soviet proposals for
collective security, “a great change” in Soviet policy perforce resulted
“as Maxim Litvinov was dismissed in favor of V. M. Molotov as
Commissar of Foreign Affairs.”
Another textbook reviews, in objective fashion and without editorial
comment, the contents, including the secret protocols, of the Nazi–
Soviet agreements of late 1939.25 The book makes no value judgment;
it simply reports the seizure of territory by the USSR (Poland, the
Baltic countries, etc.) under terms of the agreements and their
protocols. Nor does the textbook make any reference to Soviet–German
discussions in 1940 for dividing up regions of the world into zones of
influence, German and Soviet. Instead, it mentions only that the Axis
powers sought to “carve up the world.”
Although the Nazi–Soviet agreements shook the world, a few astute
observers were not taken by surprise at the time. Some officials in
Britain actually worried over the likelihood of such an alliance. Perhaps
they were aware of that long tradition of Russian, and particularly
Lenin’s own, admiration of Germany.
In retrospect it seems that London (and certainly not Washington,
which had no leverage at all with the Kremlin) could not have
prevented this Moscow–Berlin alliance—to be activated in war, present
and future—no matter how forthcoming and accommodating the
British were toward the Soviets in spring and summer 1939. In any
case, there was precious little of that given democratic Britain and its
establishment’s scorn for Soviet Communism. Moreover, it seems to
me to be untenable to allege metahistori-cally that if London had been
more accommodating toward the Kremlin during the negotiations in
1939 prior to the first Soviet–German pact of August, Stalin could have
been “enticed” away from his tilt toward Nazi Germany. There were
too many impediments for that to happen, not the least being Stalin’s
own scorn for and suspicions toward the British.
It is even possible to argue, as some Russian and Western
researchers and historians have, that Soviet talks with British envoys in
Moscow were a mere Soviet game, a ploy or “inducement” to goad
Hitler into coming to terms with Moscow in ways, as we saw, that were
extremely favorable to the latter—at least in the short term. Even in the
long term, by these agreements Stalin had won large amounts of
territory from the Baltic south to the borders of Rumania that were to
become part of the large bloc of post–World War II captive nations
known as the Central, East, and Southeast European “People’s
Democracies” along with the permanently established Soviet republics
of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
It could be said that Stalin had, indeed, honored the famous “behest”
made in his funeral oration over Lenin’s bier in January 1924 to carry
Soviet-style revolution abroad. In his memoirs, Stalin’s No. 1 aide,
Molotov, remarked to his interviewer, Felix Chuev, that Stalin, to be
sure, had not done too badly in this respect.

NOTES
The first epigraph is from German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop’s
message to the German ambassador in Moscow, August 14, 1939, in
Nazi–Soviet Relations 1939–1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department
of State, 1948), p. 50.
The second is from Nazi–Soviet Relations 1939–1941, p. 51.
The third is from Conspiracy and Aggression, vols. 1–8, Office of
the U.S. Chief Counsel of the Prosecution of Axis Criminality
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946).
The fourth is from Nazi–Soviet Relations 1939–1941, p. 125.
The fifth is from Svetlana Alliluyeva, Tol’ko odin god (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 392.
The sixth is quoted in S. Z. Sluch, “Sovetsko-Germanskiye
otnosheniya v Sentyabre-Dekyabre 1939 goda I vopros o vystupolenii
SSSR vo vtoruyu mirovuyu voinu,” Otechestvennaya Istoriya, no. 5
(2000), p. 55.
The seventh is quoted from the magazine Free Europe, October 4,
1940, reproduced in Robert Ivanov, Stalin i Soyuzniki 1941–1945
(Smolensk: Rusich, 2000), p. 83. Ivanov is a historian working at the
Institute of General History, Russian Academy of Sciences.
1 J. V. Stalin, Otchetnyi Doklad na XVIII S“ezde Partii o Rabote Ts.K.
VKP(b) (Moscow: Ogiz, 1948), p. 8.

2 Quoted in Ernst Topitsch, Stalin’s War: A Radical New Theory on


the Origins of the Second World War (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1987), p. 26.

3 William L. Shirer has observed: “The first suggestion ... for a Nazi-
Soviet nonaggression pact came from the Russians—at the very
moment they were negotiating with France and Great Britain to ...
oppose further German aggression” (The Rise and Fall of the Third
Reich [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959], p. 521). The author fails
to note, however, that the primary voice himself of collective security,
Maxim Litvinov, served as one of the first major purveyors of Stalin’s
wish to close ranks with the Nazis.

4 Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, The Time of Stalin: Portrait of Tyranny


(New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1980), p. 257. See also various
editions of the post-Soviet weekly Argumenty i Fakty.

5 Mikhail Geller and Aleksandr Nekrich, Utopia in Power (New York:


Summit Books, 1986), p. 322.

6 John Kolasky, Partners in Tyranny (Toronto: McKenzie Institute,


1990), p. 30. In sharp contrast to Rossi, Kolasky, Krivitsky, Tucker,
Conquest, and a few others, defensist writer Gabriel Gorodetsky
staunchly maintains that British, Polish, et al. recalcitrance toward
Soviet overtures of collective security “drove the Russians into German
arms” (Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia
[New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999], p. 6). Retired Red Army
officers General Oleg Sarin and Colonel Lev Dvoretsky write in their
1996 book, based on their research from the archives: ”We have found
documents that disclose quite another picture“—namely, that the
initiative for Nazi-Soviet collaboration originated in Moscow, not
Berlin, and manifested itself well before Soviet-British talks got under
way in mid-1939 (Alien Wars: The Soviet Union’s Aggressions against
the World, 1919–1939 [Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1996], p. 41). To
the ambassador of Turkey, on October 1,1939, Stalin remarked: “We
don’t have a mutual-assistance pact with Germany. But if the French
and British declared war on us, we’d fight alongside the Germans”
(quoted from archival documents in Sluch, “Sovetsko–Germanskiye
otnosheniya v Sentyabre-Dekyabre 1939 goda i vopros o vystuplenii
SSSR vo vtoruyu mirovuyu voinu,” p. 55). Some historians claim that
the British had contingency plans to bomb the Caucasian oil fields in
retaliation for the Soviet war against Finland in December 1939. Soviet
“neutrality” was indeed abandoned with the era of collaboration
between the Kremlin and Berlin. “Ours is a unique kind of neutrality.
Without fighting, we acquire territory,” declared A. A. Zhdanov with
heavy irony to the plenum of the Leningrad Province Party Committee,
November 20, 1940, amid laughter from the delegates.

7 Kolasky, Partners in Tyranny, p. 31, quoting W. G. Krivitsky.

8 Kolasky, Partners in Tyranny, p. 32; Robert Conquest, The Great


Terror: A Reassessment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), p.
197. Kandelaki was executed in the purges of 1937. Like others whom
Stalin liquidated, he probably “knew too much.”

9 Several authors give some of these particulars. Besides those


already cited above are two especially useful sources: Shirer, The Rise
and Fall of the Third Reich; and Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power: The
Revolution from Above, 1928–1941 (New York: W. W. Norton and Co.,
1992). See the concluding chapter of the present book for a roundup of
views.

10 Gerhard L. Weinberg, Germany and the Soviet Union 1939–1941


(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1954), p. 12. Weinberg’s two excellent books, this
one and his monumental A World at Arms (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1994), contain some of the best, most balanced
analyses of prewar Soviet-German relations. Weinberg is critical of
Gorodetsky’s “defensist” position on Soviet actions in 1939–41.
11 R. C. Raack, Stalin’s Drive to the West 1938–1945: The Origins of
the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 185.

12 Quoted in Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of


Collective Security, 1934–1938 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1984), pp. 151–52.

13 On Litvinov’s proposal, see the telegram from German


Ambassador to Moscow Schulenburg, May 8, 1935, in Documents on
German Foreign Policy 1918–1945, ser. C, vol. 4, no. 78, p. 138.

14 Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (New York: Doubleday Publishing Co.,


1996), p. 440.

15 David Irving, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (London:


Focal Point Publishers, 1996), pp. 306–08. Irving unearthed Goebbels’s
unpublished diaries. Doubtlessly, the Soviets as well were aware of
Hitler’s attitude toward the fruitlessness of British overtures to
Moscow.

16 A. Rossi, The Russo-German Alliance August 1939–June 1941


(Boston: Beacon Press, 1951), p. 9. Note the word order used by Rossi
in his title. Some historians note that the term Nazi–Soviet to describe
the pacts of 1939–40 was deliberate on the part of whoever coined that
word order in order to indicate that the initiative for making the
Soviet–German alliance was Nazi rather than Soviet. Whether or not
deliberate, this word order affectation began to be discarded by Russian
historians around 1991. They began to employ the expression
“Molotov–Ribbentrop pacts,” which has become the common
expression used in Russian histories. It carries the implication that the
primary impetus for the alliance had come from the Soviet, or
“Molotov,” side.
17 Weinberg, Germany and the Soviet Union 1939–1941, p. 12.

18 Albert L. Weeks, The Other Side of Coexistence: An Analysis of


Russian Foreign Policy (New York: Pitman, 1970), pp. 32–33. In his
book Grand Delusion, defensist author Gorodetsky insists that Stalin’s
motive for annexing half of Poland was “to bring war to a hasty end
before Russia too became involved in the conflict.” Yet Stalin,
following the dismemberment of Poland, immediately embarked on a
policy of supplying Hitler with war-related matériel so that he could
wage war more effectively against France, Britain, et al. See discussion
of Dimitrov above. Far from wishing the war to stop, he hoped to keep
it going.

19 See A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2 (Moscow:


Mezhdunarodniy Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), p. 584; from Comintern
General Secretary Georgi Dimitrov’s diary. (For the full text, see
appendix 3.)

20 Adam A. Claasen, Hitler’s Northern War: The Luftwaffe’s Ill-


Fated Campaign 1940–1945 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas,
2001), p. 11.

21 Topitsch, Stalin’s War, pp. 86–87. This author quotes an English


biographer of Churchill, E. Hughes, to the effect that Molotov (and
Stalin) were actually encouraging Hitler to attack the USSR: “Molotov
curtly demanded further concessions in the Balkan area and the
Dardanelles, fully knowing that this would enrage the Fuehrer and so
lure him to declare war on Russia” (Stalin’s War, p. 88). The idea is
that if Hitler were provoked into attacking the Soviets, the latter would
not only easily defeat the aggressor but be seen as the victim of an
“unjustifiable act of aggression.” Russian researchers so far have
remained silent about the possibility that it was Stalin’s intention to
provoke Hitler into “committing suicide” by attempting the
impossibility of invading, conquering, and occupying the huge USSR.

22 Topitsch, Stalin’s War, pp. 84–85.

23 This is based on new research by Russian historians. Historian M.


I. Mel’-tyukhov argues uniquely that the decimation of Red Army staff
and line officers from the 1930s purges may have been exaggerated in
terms of the purges’ alleged crippling effect on the Red Army’s overall
war-fighting capabilities (Upushchennyi shans Stalina Sovetskyi Soyuz
i bor’ba za Yevropu 1939–1941 [Moscow: Veche, 2000], pp. 368–69).

24 M. Yu. Brant et al., Rossiya I mir. Uchebnaya kniga po istorii


(Moscow: Vlados, 1994), pp. 173–75.

25 O. S. Soroko-Tsyupi, ed., Mir v XX veke (Moscow: Proveshcheniye,


1997), pp. 168–72. For other accents in the new Russian textbooks, see
appendix 4.
5

Stalin Prepares for What Kind of War

The decisive battle can be considered imminent when all the


class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled
with each other. When they are fighting sufficiently with
each other, and when they weakened each other sufficiently
for the conflict to be beyond their strength.

—J. V. Stalin

But now, when our army has been reconstructed and has in
its hands the technology for contemporary battle, now that
we have become strong—now is the time to go from defense
to offense. While securing defense of our country, we must
act in an offensive way. We must switch over in our defense
policy to offensist [nastupatel ‘nikh] actions. We need to
instill in our indoctrination, our propaganda and agitation,
and in our media an offensist spirit [nastupatel ‘nom dukhe].
The Red Army is a modern army. It is an army that is
offensist.

—J. V. Stalin, May 5, 1941


I do not accept the idea that Stalin planned to attack Hitler in
1941 or perhaps in 1942. No document supports this theory.

—Oleg Kalugin, former chief of Soviet foreign intelligence

The existence of he General Staff’s May plan [for launching


a preemptive attack] and the start of implementing it does
not exonerate the German attack on the USSR as an act of
aggression.

—Pavel Bobylev, Russian military historian


with the RF Ministry of Defense

In the preceding chapters, it is shown how Stalin and the Soviets


seemingly intended to exploit war—namely, the “next war,” World
War II—to spread communism into other countries. Lenin, Stalin, and
their associates ascertained and often repeated in their writings that war
breeds both destruction and discontent. Stalin said to the Seventeenth
Party Congress on January 26, 1934: “[A new imperialist war] is sure to
unleash revolution and jeopardize the very existence of capitalism in a
number of countries as happened in the first imperialist war. [The
imperialists] are ready to rush headlong into the abyss.”1
This war, Soviet officials explicitly said, would especially trigger
revolution if the conflict were seen by the public to have been an
unjust, merely interimperialist conflict aimed against the interests of
the working masses. The working people are exploited as little more
than cannon fodder by such warring capitalist imperialists. If it were an
imperialist war against the “socialist citadel,” it automatically would
be an unjust war. The Soviet war against such an aggressor, of course,
would be a just war.
Yet even if a given big war seemed to be just—such as World War II
fought against Fascist-Nazi-Japanese totalitarianism—Stalin thought
the postwar period would be filled with exploitable chaos in Western
Europe. This would stimulate revolutionary change of the Soviet type.
This view was reflected, for example, in the Soviet economist Yevgeny
Varga’s memorandum to Molotov in June 1947 at the time of East–
West discussions over the Marshall Plan.2

THE SOVIETVIEW OF GLOBAL WAR


When it started in late 1939, how did World War II appear to Stalin?
The Nazi war against the West had begun in earnest in spring 1940.
This followed the exchange of formal declarations of war on September
1, 1939, between Germany and France and Britain that in turn saw
several months of the so-called phony war in the West. From the
beginning, Stalin viewed the war as a strictly interimperialist affair.
The capitalist-imperialist states would destroy each other while the
Soviets remained neutral. They would observe and relish the
destructive conflict from afar.
Nevertheless, during the twenty-one-month Nazi–Soviet honeymoon
after August 1939, Stalin and Co. viewed the two, warring capitalist
sides—at least to gauge by official Soviet propaganda—in strongly
contrasting ways. Germany, the Soviets said, was the “victimized”
country, whereas England and France were the “plutocratic” aggressors.
Just as the war began on September 1, 1939, Stalin remarked to the
leaders of the Communist International on September 7:

The war is going on between two groups of capitalist states


(the poor vs. the rich ones in terms of colonies, sources of
raw materials, and so on) for a redivision of the world and
for world domination! We’re not opposed to the idea of their
fighting among themselves very well. Nor would it be bad if
by the hands of Germany the position of the richest capitalist
countries were shattered (in particular that of England).
Hitler himself does not appreciate this fact nor does he wish
to, but he is demolishing and undermining the capitalist
system.... On our part we will maneuver while pitting one
country against the other so that they can fight each other all
the better. The nonaggression pact to a degree helps
Germany. But in the next moment, it batters the other side.3

When Hitler entered Paris in May 1940, Stalin sent the German
dictator a message congratulating him for his “splendid” victory.
Soviet propaganda kept up a barrage of criticism against “imperialist”
England as it was undergoing bombing attacks by Goering’s Heinkel
bombers during the air war in 1940. During this period, too,
domestically in the USSR everything German was extolled. Sergei
Eisenshtein, the film and stage producer, was ordered to stage
Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Bolshoi Theater; previously the
proto-“Nazi” composer Wagner had been banned—za-preshchën —in
the USSR. The anti-Fascist ideological cold war, in fact, was
terminated in the USSR. The Germans reciprocated, if in a somewhat
low-key, pro-Russian way.
Meanwhile, what kind of war were the Soviets themselves preparing
for? As we have seen, Stalin had no doubt that the war would continue
and spread and seemed to prefer that it did, thus weakening the Western
capitalist powers. Sooner or later, he thought, the Soviets would enter
the war, as he put it, at the right time in order to “tip the scales” to
Soviet advantage. He appears also to have calculated, depending on
ensuing events in the war, that he might have to compromise and pick
up a few Western allies, including France, Britain, and the United
States, in the event that Hitler was on the way to defeat (see chapters 6–
7).
Moreover, in the Stalin regime’s indoctrination and propaganda,
soldiers and civilians were informed that the Soviets would enter the
war only if attacked. This was the traditional “defensist” line in Soviet
doctrine (as opposed to strategy). It respected the idea that a just war is
a defensive war, not a preemptive, preventive, or offensive
(“aggressive”) war. In the context of just war, Red Army indoctrination
never openly touted aggressive, offensive war from the Soviet side.
Yet Lenin, many times quoted to this effect in the military literature
(even as late as the 1970s), was on record as having said that it is does
not matter which side starts a war when Soviet class or revolutionary
interests are on the line: “The character of a war (whether reactionary
or revolutionary) is not determined by who the aggressor was, or whose
territory the enemy has occupied. It is determined by the class that is
waging the war, and the politics for which this war is a continuation.”4
And he said: “If war is waged by the proletariat after it has conquered
the bourgeoisie in its own country, and is waged with the objective of
strengthening and extending socialism, such a war is legitimate and
‘holy.”’ He said too:

The victorious proletariat of this [one] country, after having


appropriated the capitalist and organized socialist
production, rises up against the remaining capitalist
countries while also coming out with armed force against the
exploiting classes and their states ... using the combined
forces of the proletariat of the given country in the struggle
against those states that have not yet become socialist. [This
is] a stubborn struggle waged by socialist states against the
remaining states.

To these Leninist views, Stalin added his own offensist language: “We
are for a liberating, anti-imperialist, revolutionary war despite the fact
that such a war, as is known, is not only not free from the ‘horrors of
bloodshed,’ but abounds in them.”
In using the above and other aggressive phraseology when discussing
Soviet war aims—yet without publicly commending offensive or
preventive war—Lenin and Stalin instructed that the coming wars
between “proletarian” and “capitalist” states about which they spoke
were not only inevitable, as they so often said. They would be wars that
under certain circumstances would favor the interests of world
revolution. Thus, it would seem, such “just wars” might be logically
initiated by the proletarian side. On one occasion Lenin even
proclaimed outright: “When we are strong enough, we shall take
capitalism by the scruff of the neck.”5
The Red Army’s visible, declaratory military doctrine and
indoctrination (operations and “operational art” were a different
category, as we will see) mostly stressed the “just war” thesis. Namely,
the defender, the Soviet Union, fights justly in order merely to defend
itself against an attacking, capitalist-imperialist aggressor. In other
words, the crime of initiating war against the Soviet “citadel of
socialism” is presented as an onus lying solely with the aggressor. This
idea ran like a red thread through Soviet military thought, with few
exceptions. Yet it overlooks the fact the Soviets themselves could—and
did—violate their own principle of defensiveness.
How seriously or sincerely, in fact, the Soviet leaders embraced
these outwardly defensist, indoctrinational principles can be seen in the
way they depicted the beginnings of wars, specifically the wars in
which they participated as the unadmitted aggressors themselves—
starting, say, with the war against Poland in 1920 or against Finland in
December 1939. In both cases, the aggressor stigma was laid
disingenuously on the other side, not the Soviet. (This double standard
has cropped up many times in Soviet history. It was seen in later years
in the cases of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968
and of Afghanistan in December 1979.) In these cases, however, the
Soviets hardly acted as mere defenders (compare Lenin’s prediction
that the Polish War of 1920 could be converted into a revolutionary war
against the West as noted in the introduction).
So obviously, in fact, were the Soviets aggressors in the Finno-Soviet
“Winter War” (December 1939-March 1940) that the League of
Nations took the unusual step of expelling the USSR from its
membership. The world body’s Lytton Commission, investigating the
outbreak of that war, produced the incriminating evidence that the
Soviets had actually shelled their own territory as a pretext for opening
hostilities against Finland. They blamed the Red Army artillery attacks
on themselves on Finland (much as the Nazis had done by faking
“Polish attacks” against themselves before launching their war against
Poland on September 1, 1939). Defensist propaganda and indoctrination
of Red Army soldiers naturally would have made no sense if the
Soviets openly declared to their soldiers and the world that they had
been planning war against Finland and that they themselves had begun
the hostilities.
Many years later, in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December
1979, the same ruse was employed by Moscow to lay the blame for the
conflict on the government in Kabul, which, in fact, had been taken by
surprise by the December 25 attack. Before that, the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in August 1968 was explained to soldiers as a defense
against a “counterrevolutionary” takeover of that Central European
Communist-ruled state, a plot reflecting “activization of imperialism’s
machinations against socialist countries.”
So, the Soviet record in practice is by no means clean as concerns the
USSR’s putative status as a merely defensist war fighter. The suspicion
concerning Soviet motives in launching its attack against Finland was
provoked by another factor: Soviet intentions and overt Soviet attempts
to sovietize that country. A “revolutionary government”—the Finnish
Democratic Republic—to be led by Comintern official Otto Kuusinen
was established by Stalin as the invasion proceeded.6 A clandestine
radio station and a Communist headquarters were set up on the Soviet–
Finnish border to swing into action once the country was conquered.
Documents confirming all this and more are now available from
former-Soviet archives. They tell the story of outright Stalinist
aggression in the name of “proletarian revolution.” But can we
conclude that ideology led the way in this aggression? Or was Stalin
merely preparing for what he considered to be an inevitable German
attack on Soviet Russia at some future time? If the latter is true, then
Finnish tern-tory had an undeniable geostrategic military importance to
the USSR.
Along these lines, an interpretation of these moves lingers abroad
among some observers that all Stalin really had in mind vis-à-vis
Finland was securing some crucial territory from that country in order
to defend Leningrad against future attacks led by Germany. Yet for
other authors it appears in retrospect that Stalin really sought to
sovietize Finland, much as Outer Mongolia had been conquered and
sovietized in 1921 together with the rest of the borderland nations
annexed during the preceding and succeeding years under Lenin and
Stalin. These were nations that had composed the former tsarist empire
and which had sued for independence and had become independent
since 1917.
Thus, Finland, too, it seems, was to be restored to the Soviet Empire
as it had been under tsarist imperial control before 1917. Part of it was
incorporated as the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Republic, the USSR’s
sixteenth republic. Stalin, so runs one version, was prevented from
achieving sovietization of the entire country of Finland—as he did later
succeed in the case of each of the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia,
and Lithuania—be—cause he knew he could not conquer the plucky
Finns. He would only inherit a thorn-in-his-side civil war and endless
anti-Soviet guerrilla warfare. A compromise, the Soviet–Finnish peace
treaty of March 1940 that ended the bloody war—bloody especially for
the Soviet side—appeared to show that Stalin had been chastised as far
as Finland was concerned.
As to Soviet instigation of past wars as a means of sovietization, not
surprisingly military reference books destined for soldiers’ libraries—
such as the Soviet Military Encyclopedia, including the two editions up
to the latest in 1980—never admit to any such Soviet instigation of any
past conflicts. To admit otherwise, it seems, would be to upset Soviet
doctrine on “just war” and undermine Soviet efforts at indoctrinating
its soldiers to defend the Soviet Union, not expand its borders
imperialistically.
Yet Soviet military writings published even in the dangerous
thermonuclear age after 1970 still carried “offensist” Lenin quotes of
the type reproduced above. Even that kind of war was not totally
unwelcome, official Soviet statements claim, because it would destroy
once and for all world imperialism. Is this mere ideological posturing?
Possibly it is. In any case, here are relevant Soviet statements along
these lines whose meaning readers can ponder for themselves:

It is disorienting to think that there can be no victors in


nuclear war ... a thermonuclear war would be fatal to
capitalism ... Marxist-Leninist teaching on war and politics
is applicable to the nuclear age.

The Marxist-Leninist definition of the essence of war is


fully applicable to nuclear world war. [The root cause of
such a war] would be the capitalist system and imperialist
policy. [Consequently,] as long as war exists in the world, it
always ... will continue to be the continuation of politics by
violent means [in which] the complete victory of socialism
throughout the whole world is inevitable.

Marxist-Leninists decisively reject the assertions of certain


bourgeois theoreticians who consider nuclear missile war to
be unjust from any point of view.7

DEFENSIST/OFFENSIST CONTROVERSY
As canvassed briefly in the introduction to this book, Russian military
and civilian historians together with a few Western foreign specialists
have in recent years taken up the issue as to whether Stalin was
planning to wage offensive war against Germany and, in fact, all of
Europe after he closed the deal with Hitler in August 1939 (this issue is
explored at greater length in the conclusions in chapter 8). Why is this
issue important? The German war against the USSR took upward of
thirty million Soviet lives. It wrought incredible havoc on European
Russia. Some of the battles were horrendously brutal. One recalls, for
instance, the 900-day German siege of Leningrad that extracted a
monstrous sacrifice by the Soviet people in the starvation and death of
upward of two million citizens—the price paid for the defense of the
“second city” of the Soviet Union during the war years 1941–44. Even
Shostakovich’s dramatic and tragic Leningrad symphony could not
capture the terrible suffering of the city’s population. Men, women, and
children—everyone, in fact—were fighting the “Great Fatherland War”
(or “Great Patriotic War,” as it is sometimes translated in the West)
there and everywhere. (The bloody Russian war against Napoleon had
gone down in history as the “Fatherland War” and, ironically, likewise
opened in late June—on June 21, in fact, 130 years earlier. Stalin added
Great to the war fought against the Germans.)
To many Russians, it appeared that the war was fought not for Stalin,
communism, or the Nomenklatura. Its purpose was to defend Mother
Russia and to avenge the Nazi atrocities committed against soldiers and
civilians and the physical destruction caused by the invaders. As former
Politburo member A. N. Yakovlev has said: “My life at the front [in
World War II] was over. We had believed in what we were fighting for.
We had shouted out, ‘For the Motherland! For Stalin!’ But we didn’t
ponder, why ‘for Stalin’? ‘For the Motherland’ made sense. But why
‘for Stalin’?”8 So, fifty-five years after the end of the 1941–45 war, to
claim that the war had not been one waged purely in defense of the
country in repulsing an aggressor but, rather, as Molotov suggests in
his later interviews, a war of an expansionistic type that led to the
“extension the frontiers of socialism” would seem intolerable, a gross
insult to the memory of the millions of Soviet victims in that war.

OFFENSIST WAR PLANS


Yet no less an ex-Soviet official than the Soviet officer in charge of
indoctrination in the Soviet armed forces in the 1970s, Dmitri
Volkogonov, erstwhile widely read, Soviet-period indoctrinator-author
of Marxist-Leninist-slanted tracts on the army and war, himself began
the process of “revision” in the history of that war. Two other former
Red Army senior officers, General Oleg Sarin and Colonel Lev
Dvoretsky describe the Nazi–Soviet pact and Stalin’s machinations as
follows:

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact set up a vicious partnership


between Stalin and Hitler. It gave the two dictators a free
hand in determining the destinies of other peoples, allowing
them to occupy other countries’ territories.... The Soviet
mass media in those days not only persuaded our people that
the occupation of foreign territories by the Soviet Union was
necessary and just, but excused the combat actions of
Hitler’s Germany against democratic nations, depicting
[these actions] as defending the German people against
aggression. Thus is the nature of propaganda. At the same
time, the USSR was supplying Germany with many things
necessary for aggression against her neighbors....
Hypocritically smiling at each other and keeping up false
pretenses, each had diabolical ideas relative to each other.
Hitler was preparing for “Operation Barbarossa,” the
invasion of the Soviet Union, and Stalin was preparing a
preventive strike at Germany.

In his 1992 biography of Stalin, Triumph and Tragedy, Volkogonov


writes explicitly in book 2, chapter 1, that Stalin’s war plans by no
means were exclusively “defensist” (oboronitel’niye). On the contrary,
Volkogonov writes, operation plans for waging that war, already
developed in May 1941, point in offensist (nastupatel’niye) directions
vis-à-vis the Germans. The sources he used were recently disclosed
military archive materials to which he had readier access, as an ex-
Soviet general, than others at that time.9 (Soviet physicist Andrei D.
Sakharov had made the same accusation back in the 1960s.) Whether it
can be concluded that by “offensive war” Stalin and the military or a
Russian historian like Volkogonov possibly meant preemptive or
preventive war will be assessed later (see chapter 8).
In the year 2000, a stunning article appeared in the main Russian
military historical journal. In a sense it is the climax if not bottom-line,
to date at any rate, summation of several articles appearing in Russian
historical journals, civilian and military, during the past five years. Yet
the discussion, as the author of this article himself commends, should
and will continue.
Running over 15,000 words and written by Pavel N. Bobylev,
candidate in historical science in the Russian Federation’s Ministry
Defense Institute of Military History, the long, well-sourced article is
unusual in the way it assumes a generally pro-offensist line on Stalin’s
war plans as revealed from new documents unearthed by Bobylev and
other, fellow Russian researchers such as Mikhail I. Mel’tyukhov of the
All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Document and Archive
Affairs (VNIIDAD). Some of these documents had just been published
in 1998 in the big, two-volume set of primary sources titled The Year
1941. Dokumenty, under the editorship of A. N. Yakovlev.10 Other
documents have come from the Presidential Archive as well as from
secret police and army archives accessed by Bobylev, Mel’tyukhov,
and others.
After Bobylev’s introductory apologia that more evidence needs to
be forthcoming to reach an absolutely definitive conclusion on the
nature—whether essentially offensist or defensist (nastupatel’nyi or
oboronitel’nyi)—of Stalin’s war plans, Bobylev strikes off these
following points.
The “preemption” option: In the General Staff document of May 15,
signed by People’s Commissar of Defense “S. Timoshenko” and Chief
of the General Staff “G. Zhukov,” titled “Considerations on a Plan for
Strategic Deployment of the Armed Forces in the Event of War with
Germany and Its Allies,” found in Historical Archive and Military-
Memorial Center of the General Staff, this statement appears:
“Preempt [upredit’] the enemy by deploying against and attacking the
German Army at the very moment when it has reached the deployment
stage but is still not able to organize its forces into a front or
coordinate all his forces.”11 In the section of the May 15 strategic
“Considerations” where Timoshenko and Zhukov recommended
concrete measures to Stalin to realize their preemptive strike, the plan
reads: “In order to carry out the above-proposed plan, it is necessary
to carry out in timely fashion the following measures without which it is
impossible to deliver a sudden strike against the enemy whether from
the air or on the ground.” Thence follows exhaustive details for
concealed mobilization and concentration of troops.
On this and other similar offensist notes discovered in Stalin’s
prewar strategy, according to the unearthed documents, Bobylev makes
a number of startling observations, considering his position within the
official Ministry of Defense institute. He notes that when the
“Considerations” document was first disclosed—after some Russian
military historians had denied its very existence—it unleashed a volley
of overdue discussion among Russian historians.
Bobylev starts his own discussion by noting that the “Russian-
defector” historian, the former Soviet military intelligence (GRU)
senior officer, Viktor Suvorov (i.e., Viktor Bogdanovich Rezun), now
living and writing in London, managed to distort and exaggerate
whatever official, as opposed to the more recent archival documents, he
employed in writing his 1992 book, first published in Russian and titled
Ice-Breaker. (Actually, Suvorov uses no recently disclosed archival
documents.) This is a book that strongly indicts Stalin for “starting”
World War II. In one of his books, Den’ M (M-Day), Suvorov goes so
far as to claim that Soviet mobilization—hence, the “M” in his title—
began on the very day after the Nazi–Soviet pact was signed, August
23–24, 1939.
Yet, as Bobylev observes, Suvorov-Rezun, whom he characterizes as
a “hostile, unsavory person resorting to betraying his own country by
making it responsible for causing the German aggression against it,” is
not the first Russian researcher to suggest that Stalin’s war plans were
offensist. That author, Bobylev notes, was ex-General Volkogonov, in
charge of military indoctrination under the Soviets. In 1989, three years
before the appearance of Ice-Breaker, he developed that very insight
from the above document that he had examined. Volkogonov describes
the document, “Considerations,” as a “shrewd and politically
extraordinary, crucial proposal.”
Bobylev thereupon canvasses the distortions that he alleges have
been made concerning the General Staff document. He criticizes the
well-known military historian Yu. A. Gor’kov for having in earlier
discussions abridged or otherwise contorted the May 15
“Considerations.” Its offensist edge is not clearly conveyed by
Gor’kov, Bobylev alleges. He further rebukes those authors who have
claimed that Stalin did not formally approve of the General Staff’s
offensist plan because there is no proof that he even saw it. To this
Bobylev replies that the extreme secrecy of the plan, and the
notoriousness of its offensist nature, precluded any outward recognition
of Stalin’s approval of the plan. Besides, he adds, Stalin was in the
habit of receiving and reading documents while refusing to show
formal recognition of that fact—again, for reasons of secrecy or
perhaps from Stalin’s own way of keeping his “fingerprints” off
sensitive documents. (This habit shows up in the many “unsigned”
death warrants issued by Stalin to his enemies during the purges of the
1930s.) He also notes that Marshal Zhukov, in one of his interviews,
admitted the existence of the document, though he shied away from
making any further comments about it—as one Russian researcher
suggests, because Zhukov knew, of course, that that reconstruction of
Soviet war plans was forbidden by the Communist Party.

TWO STALIN SPEECHES, MAY 5, 1941


As to Stalin’s secret speech to graduates of the military schools and his
remarks at a reception thereafter, on May 5, 1941, the stenographic text
of this significant speech was for the first time published very recently
in its entirety (I have translated it in appendix 1). It is found in book 2
of the Yakovlev collection of documents, 1941 God. Dokumenty (The
Year 1941: Documents). A partial text had been discussed in
academician Yuri N. Afanas’iev’s edited 1996 volume, Drugaya voina
1939–1945 (The Other War 1939–1945), a collection of articles written
by Russian military historians.
In his secret address followed by his pithy remarks at the reception
for the graduates in the Grand Kremlin Palace just weeks before the
German invasion, Stalin had reversed his and Molotov’s allegations of
1939–40 that England and France were the principal “instigators of a
new war.” Germany was now Potential Enemy No. 1, Stalin declared. It
had become the main “warmonger.” Podzhigatelyi voiny—warmongers
—was the epithet that had been reserved at that time by Soviet
propaganda for France and England, not Nazi Germany.
Stalin declared that an end must be put to the perception of “German
invincibility” that, he complained, resonated throughout the Soviet
Union and abroad. Above all, he announced, the time had come to
organize matters in troop preparation, indoctrination, and procurement
of modern arms and deployment of troops along the western frontier in
order to prepare the Red Army to wage “offensive war”—Stalin’s
words. (I will consider later the meaning of offensive war.)
The Stalin speech was immediately followed by a reception for the
Red Army graduates. Here Stalin elaborated on his earlier speech. The
full document, reproduced in the Yakovlev collection, shows Stalin
making these telling remarks (for the translation into English, see
appendix 2; emphases added):

I wish to make a correction [in what a general-major of tank


troops has said during his toast].
Our policy of peace keeps the peace for our own country.
A policy of peace is a good thing. Up to now, up to this time,
we have pursued a line of defense [oborona] until such the
time as our army was rearmed and was supplied with the
modern means of waging war.
But now, when our army has been reconstructed and has in
its hands the technology for contemporary battle, now that
we have become strong—now is the time to go from defense
to offense.
While securing defense [oborona] of our country, we must
act in an offensive way [deistvovat’ nastupatel’nym
obrazom]. We must switch over in our defense policy to
offensist [nastupatel’nykh] actions. We need to instill in our
indoctrination, our propaganda and agitation, and in our
media an offensist spirit [nastupatel’nom dukhe]. The Red
Army is a modern army. It is an army that is offensist.

Follow-up commentaries on Stalin’s speech and remarks at the


reception were included in various speeches or reports, some of them
secret, delivered in succeeding days and weeks by such top officials as
Molotov, Zhdanov, Malenkov, and Shcherbakov (secretary in charge of
propaganda) and by Generals Alexander Vasilievsky and Nikolai
Vatutin. In their glosses on the May 5 Stalin speech and the Leader’s
remarks, these subordinate party officials and senior military officers,
always referring to Khozain (The Boss), Stalin, by name, touted the
Stalin-dictated “military policy of conducting offensive actions.”
Among other offensist phrases, they repeated the aggressive declaration
of Lenin’s: Any war fought against capitalist powers by the USSR “is a
just war, no matter which side starts the war” (emphasis added). Such
observations as these were made publicly during the one-month run-up
period just prior to the German invasion. Historian V. A. Nevezhin, of
the Russian Academy of Sciences, who specializes in ideology, has
devoted his latest book—The Syndrome of Offensive War—to exploring
the offensist indoctrination of Red Army soldiers in this period.12
Bobylev further notes that at the end of 1938, Chief of the General
Staff Shaposhnikov at that time had addressed the People’s
Commissariat of Defense as follows: “The whole system of our
preparations for war in 1939 must not be basically defensist
[oboronitel’niye] but must contain the concept of offensive operations.
Only a certain amount [postol’ko-poskol’ ‘ko] of attention should be
paid to defense [oborone].” Yet Shaposhnikov later recommended that
only covering forces be deployed in the new western territories
acquired after 1939. Instead, offensive forces were deployed there—
fortunately for the Germans. For if, in the two years preceding
Barbarossa, strong defenses had been built along the new frontier—
perhaps including a fortified line resembling the old “Stalin Line”
constructed along the 1938 border to the east—the Wehrmacht likely
would have been stopped in its tracks. Former Red Amy Major-General
Petr Grigorenko, who commanded troops in initial battles following
June 22, 1941, complained in his memoirs that “there could be only one
reason for [the heavy deployment of Red Army offensive troops in the
west], namely, that these troops were intended for a surprise offensive.
In the event of an enemy attack, these troops would already be half
encircled. The enemy would only need to deal a few, short blows at the
base of our wedge and then encirclement would be complete.”13
Encirclement became the hellish fate for many units of the Red Army
in the opening weeks and months of the war.
Bobylev comments that up until these recent archival document
disclosures were made concerning Stalin et al.’s emphasis on taking the
offensive, “ideological blinders” in the Soviet as well as in the post-
Soviet period distorted any discussion or speculation in Russia
concerning Stalin’s war plans. Such discussion fell into the
“propaganda trap,” as he puts it, of emphasizing the putatively
defensist rather than the authentic offensist thrust of Soviet military
planning on the eve of the German invasion. (The same accusation is
directed at certain Western writers as well, who had become suspicious
of the claims of the “ringer,” the émigré Viktor Suvorov, who had not
had access to the new documents.)
“Thus, it is not surprising,” Bobylev concludes, that nothing
substantive was written about the May 15 “Considerations” or Stalin’s
May 5 speech and his remarks at the graduates’ reception “either in the
academic journals or in memoir literature.” Neither have Western
scholars objectively discussed these disclosures, assuming the
documents were at their disposal. But since these revelations, he
hastens to say, the matter is being “deeply researched.”

RED ARMY CONCENTRATIONS ON THE EVE OF


JUNE 22
As to recent disclosures about the details of Red Army deployments on
the eve of June 22, 1941, Bobylev provides, as some Russian military
historians did before him, a number of technical details buttressing the
idea that Stalin harbored preemptive war plans against the Germans. He
dismisses the contention made by certain “apologists” that the absence
of documentation at the grassroots level in the Red Army (i.e., among
ordinary Soviet junior officers, noncoms, and enlisted personnel)
substantiating such offensive Soviet Red Army war planning means
that no such plans existed. As he points out, the plans were too secret to
reveal to the ranks. In the same manner on the German side, Bobylev
notes, Operation Barbarossa likewise was kept from line officers in the
Wehrmacht for the same reason: to protect the absolute secrecy of the
planned surprise attack, the knowledge of which was confined to a mere
handful of officials.
As some Russian historians (including some in the West) had already
noted, the author discusses how Stalin and his General Staff officers
made crucial mistakes in the way Red Army forces were ordered by
Headquarters in spring 1941 to be deployed in such great numbers so
near the front lines without sufficient defensive measures having been
taken—because essentially the Red Army’s tactics were offensist, not
defensive. Moreover, the dangerous gambit of deploying so near
German lines in order to be able to jump off to wage offensive war, or a
“preemptive strike,” was designed before what Stalin had called in his
reception speech “modern weaponry” was actually in the hands of the
deployed Red Army and Red Air Force. Another factor in bringing
about the catastrophe of June 22, notes the Russian military historian,
is that it appeared that Stalin and Red Army staff officers did not
expect a German move at least until mid-July. (There is some evidence
that Stalin projected the date even further into the future.)

NEGLECT OF RETREAT
The anathema of retreat afflicting Red Army war planning was the
other side of the offensist coin. In spring 1941 no concerted
preparations were made for tactical, let alone strategic, withdrawal
(retreat) if the Red Army were taken by surprise or at some point were
overwhelmed by the enemy. To Stalin’s way of thinking, inherited from
Lenin, “retreating”—otstupleniye—was virtually a crime. The
professional military thought twice about even using the words
otstupleniye or otkhod (meaning “withdrawal,” a slightly more
acceptable term).
The very wording of the definitions of offense and defense in the
post–World War II Military Encyclopedic Dictionary differs
significantly. Offense is defined as the “basic [osnovyi] form of
[Soviet] military actions.” Defense is defined simply as a “form of
military activities.”14 The extreme opprobrium attached by the Stalin
regime to the idea of “retreating” was proved when some of the Soviet
armies were forced to withdraw during the opening days and weeks of
the German onslaughts of Barbarossa. Stalin had senior officers of such
retreating units in some cases executed for ordering tactical
withdrawals. Rank-and-file soldiers, or vanki (GIs), would themselves
be shot as well (according to soldier eyewitnesses, in the back of the
head) if and when political commissars or NKVD officers, both of
whom were distributed within the ranks, caught them retreating, let
alone defecting to the enemy. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and
civilians actually did defect in the opening days and weeks of
hostilities when they regarded the invading Germans as “liberators.”
The estimated number of Red Army deserters at that time has been put
at 630,000.15

EXPECTED TIME AND PLACE OF THE GERMAN


ASSAULT
A profound error furthermore was made by the General Staff, and
evidently by Stalin personally, in anticipating where the main German
onslaught would be made. It was assumed it would be centered in the
southwest against Ukraine from German positions in Rumania. The
Soviet military calculated, with Stalin’s concurrence, that a German
blitzkrieg against the most likely prime target, the oil- and industry-
rich region, was to be expected. “Without these most important, vital
resources fascist Germany will not be able to wage a lengthy war,
large-scale war,” Stalin told his General Staff, whereupon he ordered
the deployment of no less than twenty-five Red Army divisions to the
area.
Yet, though it possessed reasonably good roads and railroad lines,
the southwestern sector has an abundance of rivers. Their crossing
would slow down the German advance. For these and other reasons,
Hitler adhered to the “northern” option for attack. In addition, he
regarded his Rumanian and Hungarian allies to the south as
undependable. In reality, on and after June 22, the blows—in three
main thrusts—fell simultaneously all along the 2,500-mile north–south
line, including even at the least expected (by the Soviets) places, for
example, just north and south of the obstacle-ridden Pripet Marshes
located between Poland and the USSR.
As to the time of attack, as perceived by the Soviets, in past wars or
battles a preparatory period of time—ten days to two weeks, depending
on circumstances—had preceded the actual opening of hostilities,
Bobylev notes. This was true in particular of the eves of German- and
Soviet-fought wars or battles up to then. There was always a “revving-
up” time of detectable first-echelon or covering-troop deployment plus
other signs of mobilization extending to the rear that signaled
immediate war while giving the defending side time to prepare. So the
Soviets in effect were caught by surprise because they did not realize
that there would be no such “gift” of an obvious revving-up period
indicated by the German side.
Even a declaration of war or an ultimatum can provide some extra
time to prepare. Of course, it was disingenuous of Molotov to have
complained to German Ambassador Schulenburg in the foreign
minister’s office in Moscow on the morning of the fateful German
invasion that the German High Command had violated “commonly
accepted” military principles by failing to issue a formal declaration of
war before opening hostilities. The Soviets themselves, after all, never
made any such declarations in starting their own wars—usually begun
on Sunday rest days, as the Germans had started their own June 22
invasion. The irrelevancy of declarations of war, moreover, is
recognized in Soviet military literature. Writings state that modern,
twentieth-century conflicts do not begin with declarations of war.
Reference works such as the Soviet Military Encyclopedia cite this
truism, in fact, to demonstrate the importance of concealment and
surprise. Exploiting the element of surprise has always been a Red
Army standby going back to the earliest phase of Soviet military
thought. Declarations of war emasculate such plans.

SECRECY, CONCEALMENT, AND SURPRISE


Both elements—concealment and surprise—in achieving mastery in the
very opening phase of hostilities were, in any case, recognized and
appreciated by both German and Soviet military planners and
theoreticians long before the war started in 1941 or in the first phase in
1939. This was basic to both armies’ operational art, especially as both
anticipated waging mainly offensive actions.
The Soviet leadership kept abreast of—and misled by—the
Wehrmacht’s ceaseless output of misleading disinformation and
dissimulation in the weeks just before Barbarossa. In this period the
Germans tried to fool the Soviets into thinking that the large
deployments of German troops along Russia’s western borders were
merely in preparation for their later deployment to the north against the
British. Some of the input of Soviet intelligence to Moscow, in
reporting this farfetched German disinformation, was described by
Soviet agents as disinformation when they conveyed it through secret
channels. But the warning that it might be dez (i.e., dezinformatsiya,
disinformation) fell on deaf ears when it reached the highest Soviet
officials.
On the Red Army side Soviet commanders likewise practiced tight
concealment of their offensive operational plans. They sent sealed
brown envelopes containing the top-secret orders to front commanders
to initiate the attacks at some future time under the rubric “Groza”
(“Storm”). The commanders were to unseal the envelopes and open
hostilities only when so directed from Headquarters (Stavka) in
Moscow or from an army command post.
A documentary film, produced in 1999 under the auspices of Films
for the Humanities and Sciences (titled Stalin and Hitler: Dangerous
Liaisons), researched and written by a team of French and Russian
historians, provides eyewitness interviews with ex–Red Army soldiers
who were on the Western Front in June 1941. They provide evidence of
secret Red Army preparations for waging offensive war.
Marshal Ivan Kh. Bagramyan admitted after the war that before June
22, 1941, “we had learned mostly to attack. We had not paid enough
attention to such an important matter as retreat. Now we had to pay for
that failing.” It is not true to suggest, moreover, as some observers
might, that no army’s field manual or instructions to commanders and
the rank and file are about to speak of “retreat.” No army likes to admit
of such a thing, someone might claim. However, the fact is that they do
speak of the necessity of retreat—and that includes army field manuals
of most countries then and now, including those of the U.S. Army. The
word they use may be withdrawal. But it nevertheless amounts to
retreat. Here and there Soviet military literature of the 1920s and 1930s
contained references to planned withdrawals. One of the outstanding
writers about the mixture of withdrawal and attack is G. S. Isserson.
(Pre–June 1941 Soviet military writings and post–World War II Soviet
military reference books neglect discussion of Isserson’s principles.
The Brezhnev period Voyennyi Entsiklopedicheskyi Slovar’ [Military
Encyclopedic Dictionary] omits even a short biographical note on
Isserson.)
Such secrecy about offensive war planning was a most sensitive
point with Stalin. The dictator went out of his way to conceal any
Soviet plans or preparations for launching an attack. He would sternly
warn and reprimand, if not severely punish, any commander who gave
the slightest indication to the enemy of Soviet intentions to launch
preemptive attacks lest it provide an excuse to the Germans to attack
first. All mobilizations and deployments were to be concealed and
carried out at night. No anti-aircraft fire was to be directed at any
overflying German spotter planes or other German aircraft. Such
violations of Soviet airspace, of which there were many in the weeks
before the invasion, were to be ignored and were ignored lest the
Germans be “instigated” into attacking because of such “incidents.” On
the German side, concealment of the opening blitzkrieg invasion
against the Red Army, as previously noted, was hidden even from
Wehrmacht line commanders as well as from close aides to Hitler
(exceptions were Goebbels, Goering, Ribbentrop, and a few others plus
some in the General Staff).
On the German side the secrecy surrounding Barbarossa was strictly
observed right up to the early dawn hours just after midnight on June
22. The Germans planned their attack relatively early after midnight—
in other words, in near semidarkness. In the extreme northern latitudes
of Russia in summer the dawn light begins to show by 2 or 3 A.M. One
tends to forget that almost all of former Soviet Russia lies north of the
latitude of Minneapolis–St. Paul. A German code signal called
“Dortmund” was flashed to the front instructing Wehrmacht front
commanders to jump off and open hostilities against the exposed Red
Army forces.

BLAME STALIN OR THE MILITARY?


The writer Bobylev observes that by placing so much blame solely on
Stalin in traditional, official accounts of the opening of the war for
mistakes made at the very beginning of hostilities, the crucial
miscalculations meanwhile made by the professional Army staff
officers, such as Zhukov, Timoshenko, Vasilievsky, et al., have been
covered up. As he notes, the cover-up had an obvious motivation: What
living, postwar staff officer, he asks, would ever admit to such
misjudgments, given the tragedy of June 22 and its catastrophic
aftermath? He alleges that Zhukov himself engaged in such distortions
in interviews, for example, with veteran Soviet-period Russian military
writer Viktor A. Anfilov.
In this context the Russian military writer in the RF Ministry of
Defense Institute mounts a strong criticism of Marshal Zhukov. In his
latter-day memoirs (in the 1960s and 1970s), the marshal, contends
Bobylev, had concocted a mainly self-serving, self-exonerating version
of what actually occurred in mid-1941 on the eve of the war. Zhukov’s
heavily edited if not strongly slanted memoirs simply overlook the
numerous miscalculations made by the Soviet military personnel
themselves and the way the military had evidently misled Stalin, who,
of course, was not guiltless either. An important reason for their
miscalculations, he insists, stemmed from Red Army emphasis on
offensism to the detriment of taking defensive measures.
Meanwhile, by contrast, some Western specialists on the period have
adopted the “Khrushchev line.” They allege that Stalin was solely to
blame for the tragedy of the opening months of the war. A consensus of
sorts has formed that Stalin was even “paralyzed” by the news of the
German invasion and so on (see chapter 6). Later, throughout the
Brezhnev period of the 1970s, when Gensek Brezhnev himself was
being extravagantly extolled as a “brilliant commander” in the Great
Fatherland War, becoming a laureate of the prized Marshal’s Star,
Marshal Zhukov himself was depicted as a latter-day Kutuzov or
Suvorov of historic Russian military fame. Military heroism was a
standby of the Brezhnev period. In the 1960s and 1970s bronze statues
of Zhukov, such as the famous one in Moscow, were erected showing
the marshal mounted heroically on a steed. The Zhukov memoirs
became bestsellers as they went through several editions, some more or
less candid than others. Yet all of Zhukov’s memoirs place most of the
blame for the midsummer 1941 miscalculations on Stalin alone.
On his part, writing without apparent qualms from his academic
position within the post-communist Ministry of Defense institute in
Moscow, Bobylev insists that Soviet military memoirists in many cases
simply mislead their readers—among whom, one may presume, are a
number of Western writers who have relied in their books, perhaps too
heavily, on official Soviet materials or officers’ boilerplated memoirs.
Many of these memoirists convey the idea that the soldiers were
largely blameless for any mistakes made in the war, especially for the
way it began so tragically.
RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCE HISTORIAN’S
FINDINGS
Examination of Stalin’s actions in the period 1939–41 is not confined
to military historians. At the Institute of Russian History of the Russian
Academy of Science a number of scholars have been investigating the
matters discussed in this chapter. One such historian is Dr. Vladimir
Nevezhin, a specialist on the history of Soviet diplomacy as well as
Soviet propaganda.
In his latest book, Sindrom Nastupatel ‘noi Voiny (The Syndrome of
Offensive War), Nevezhin makes the following inferences from his
research into archive material and other sources:
By the end of the 1930s, the Bolshevik leadership recognized the
“il-lusoriness,” as he puts it, of the Soviet pursuit of world
revolution as a means of liquidating the “capitalist encirclement.”
Stalin began to think in more pragmatic terms. He began to view
offensive actions by the Red Army against certain countries as a
military, “world-revolutionary cause.” The several invasions of
neighboring countries in the period 1939–40 thus were
characterized in Soviet propaganda as “revolutionary crusades.”
The Soviet armed expansion against Poland in September 1939
was treated as a “just, offensive war for the liberation of blood-
brotherly White Russians (Byelorussians) and Ukrainians, who
were among the population of Carpathian Ruthenia seized by the
Soviets in 1940.” The same expansionist spirit, he writes, lay
behind the war of December 1939–March 1940 against Finland, a
country, he says, that Stalin sought to “pulverize.” Such
expansionism represented an updating of the old Leninist tactic of
“defending the homeland on foreign soil.”
There was a general awareness that the “Big War” lay in the near
future. It was surmised by Stalin that Germany would be the
Soviet enemy in that war despite the Nazi–Soviet agreements of
1939 and the subsequent toning down of mutually hostile
propaganda on both sides. At the same time Soviet propaganda
singled out for attack the English and French “imperialists,”
“warmongers,” “Polish subjugators,” “Rumanian barons,” and so
on. By fall 1940, when Soviet-German relations began to show
strains, anti-Nazi motifs began to creep into Soviet propaganda,
although the basic line on “friendship” continued. However, by the
end of that year the propaganda accent shifted to one of military
preparedness—in fact, writes Nevezhin, to a “transition in the
propaganda to military themes.”
By spring 1941 the propaganda line was based on new directives
issued by the former chief of Red Army indoctrination until late
1940, and after that the deputy commissar of defense, Lev
Mekhlis, who began to switch to offensism. This was in line with
Stalin’s speech and remarks to the military school graduates on
May 5. “Stalin let it be known,” notes Nevezhin, “that from now
on Germany was to be regarded as the potential enemy in war. As
a consequence, Stalin said, it was necessary to change from a
peace policy to one of a ‘defense policy based on offensive
actions.’ Therefore, propaganda should adopt the same offensist
spirit.”
Thus followed, Nevezhin writes, a complete turnabout in the
propaganda line. The message now was that it was necessary to
make all-round preparations for war, that the Red Army should be
ready wage offensive war and, when necessary, take the initiative
in attacking the enemy first. Given all this, he concludes that there
is absolutely no evidence that the Soviet leader blocked in any way
Soviet anti-Hitler propaganda or the offensist (nastupatel’nym)
tenor of the propaganda and indoctrination of that juncture in time.
As he writes: “As a result a degree of opprobrium became
associated with the defensist [oboronitel’nymi] positions held by
some of the military while the ‘offensist’ spirit penetrating the
propaganda became embarrassing to them.”
Meantime, as the research conducted by latter-day historians has
begun to discover these offensist themes, Nevezhin continues,
historians are turning their attention to such sources from those
times as local party committees, military districts, army
newspapers, and documents issued at the grassroots by other state
or party institutions. At same time historians are frustrated,
Nevezhin complains, by the fact that documents relating directly
to Stalin, Politburo minutes, and the documents of his closest
associates are kept in presidential, military, and other state
archives and are not accessible to most researchers. One may
presume that any latter-day Russian president would be reluctant
to “advertise” past Soviet offensism lest it negatively reflect on
present Russian defense policy.
In a postscript to Nevezhin’s book, a scholar named B. Bonvetsch
of the University of Ruhr in Germany discusses the works of both
Nevezhin and Viktor Suvorov. He describes the latter as a
“dilettante” who has employed no new sources for his theories.
Moreover, Suvorov’s use of published materials is distinctly
“unprofessional and his findings doubtful.” For his part, Nevezhin,
Bonvetsch complains, relies too heavily on Stalin’s May 5 speech,
“which as yet has not been authenticated.” Until and unless it is
authenticated, he concludes, speculation as to Stalin’s personal
motives and plans will remain . . . speculative.” The German
professor, however, made this observation before the Stalin texts
of May 5 were reproduced in the collection of documents edited
by A. N. Yakovlev as cited here.

CRITICS OF SUVOROV AND OTHERS


The Russian émigré writer Viktor Suvorov has been the target of
considerable criticism ever since his book, Ice-Breaker, was read by
Russian and foreign specialists in the early 1990s. Although some
respected Western or Russian specialists—among them, Robert C.
Tucker, Edvard Radzinsky, Pavel Bobylev, and M. I. Mel’tyukhov—
generally hew to the “offensist” interpretation of Stalin’s and the Red
Army’s prewar military planning (while criticizing Suvorov for some
of his interpretations and conclusions), the great majority of Western
and, at least until recently, Russian specialists had rejected this
interpretation.
One of the more articulate if not vehement of the “defensists” is
Gabriel Gorodetsky, Russian émigré scholar in Tel Aviv and author of
several volumes on Soviet foreign policy. In his books, The Myth of the
“Ice-Breaker” on the Eve of War and Grand Delusion: Stalin and the
German Invasion of Russia, Gorodetsky scores the offensist line, and
Suvorov in particular, along a number of vectors as follows.
The meaning of defensive/offensive: Gorodetsky maintains, oddly,
that Stalin showed “little interest in military affairs.”16 He references
the March 1, 1941, Red Army “strategic deployment plan” as
“remarkably defensive,” noting that it stresses the possibility of war on
two fronts—in the Far East and in the West. Signed by Marshal
Timoshenko, defense commissar, General Zhukov, chief of the General
Staff, and staff member General-Major Vasilievsky, this plan does not
mention offensive operations.
The author then turns to the crucial post–May 5 period of Soviet war
planning, taking into account Stalin’s address to the graduates of May 5
and the May 15 “Considerations” signed by the same Red Army staff
officers. First, for some reason, Gorodetsky makes no mention of
Stalin’s speech and remarks of May 5. Moreover, he denies that Stalin
had ever seen, let alone endorsed, the offensist positions taken in
“Considerations,” the report to Stalin submitted by Timoshenko and
Zhukov (alluded to above). He opines that
[given] sufficient time to deploy the army effectively on the
[western] border, Zhukov would have organized the defence
in the only fashion which Soviet doctrine recognized: a
combination of defensive and offensive measures.... Zhukov
attempted to persuade Stalin to seize the initiative [from the
Germans]. Since he was not privy to the intricate diplomatic
game, Zhukov was becoming increasingly restless about the
cautious mobilization plan imposed on him. On 15 May, he
and Timoshenko prepared yet another directive [in which]
Zhukov wished to seize the initiative in executing a
preemptive strike. His point of departure was in no way
ideologically motivated or expansionist.

That is all the author has to say about the May 15, fifteen-page-long (in
Russian) “Considerations”!
Gorodetsky hobbles his defensist-leaning argument in two ways. By
ignoring Stalin’s May 5 speech and remarks, he not only overlooks the
dictator’s well-known direct involvement in military affairs—which, in
any case, other authors, including military officers in their memoirs,
have noted in contrast to Gorodetsky’s assertion to the opposite. He
thereby neglects to refer to Stalin’s insistence on Red Army offensive
war or to such references by high Stalin aides, whether military men or
civilians.
Too, his reference to a “combination” of defense and offense in
traditional Soviet military doctrine is puzzling. As noted in the
introduction, even a high-ranking contemporary official such as former
President Yeltsin’s military adviser and former Russian first deputy
minister of defense, Andrei A. Kokoshin, describes Soviet military
thought from 1917 to 1991 as follows: “The offensive character of
Soviet military strategy was quite obvious. [As the 1939 Red Army
Field Manual states] the Red Army will be the most offensist army of
all armies that have ever been offensively oriented. We will wage an
offensive war, carrying the conflict into the territory of the adversary . .
. with the aim of the total defeat of the enemy.” 17 Kokoshin further
complains in his 1995 book that the traditional emphasis put on Red
Army offensism led to neglect of defense in military strategy, which
showed up so critically, he says, in the debacle of June 22 and
thereafter.
Moreover, Gorodetsky faults Zhukov for drawing the wrong
conclusions from the second set of war games (of winter 1941,
following the first games of late 1940) fought partly under his
guidance. In these games, “Reds” were opposed by “Blues,” the latter
being the attackers (see discussion of the games below). The “Reds,”
under Zhukov’s command in the games, counterattacked with “deep-
operations” tactics of the offensist type advocated in the past by
Tukhachevsky and Triandafillov and applied by Zhukov against the
Japanese at Khalkin-Gol in Outer Mongolia in 1939. This early 1941
war game proved the “relative” success, writes Gorodetsky, of that kind
of strategy. (It perhaps emboldened Zhukov to assume an offensist line
in the way he did together with Stalin by mid–May 1941. This is not
pursued by Gorodetsky.) The writer continues: “Zhukov probably
hoped to repeat the relative success [of the January games and
envisaged] that the Red Army would be able to confront the estimated
100 German divisions . . . with the 152 of [Red Army divisions]. The
execution of vast encirclement battles through tactical maneuverings
was expected to cause havoc among the German concentrations.” Yet
that this was a plan for launching preemptive or preventive war is
denied by Gorodetsky.
The writer then refers to a defense plan—a “defensive policy,” as he
calls it, possibly meaning “defensist”—drawn up by Timoshenko,
Zhukov, and Zhdanov on May 17, two days following the more
offensist-sounding May 15 “Considerations.” Referring to a document
cited by Volkogonov, Gorodetsky maintains that it appears that the
May 17 Red Army General Staff report took the defensist line that it
did because there was doubt that a “preemptive strike was possible at
this stage” (emphasis added). The report, he continues, “reflects a
desperate attempt to put the house in order.... Consequently, a new set
of orders [of May 17] clearly displays a defensive disposition and the
ineptitude of the armed forces,” which, as the report states, was seen
from a survey conducted by the military over winter 1940–41.
There is no solid support for Gorodetsky’s assumption. Indeed, some
of the documents of late May 1941 that are reproduced in the Yakovlev
compilation, The Year 1941, do implicitly reflect a defensist
“disposition,” including those of May 17 and May 2, the latter of which
even mentions “withdrawal” (otkhod). But these documents consist of
directives issued by Timoshenko and Zhukov to various commands
along the Western Front to adopt the usual defensive measures during
the process of deploying and concentrating troops prior to any attack
they might make, as the orders to the military districts along the
western frontier specifically state. These orders neither contradict nor
replace any of the overall strategic planning as outlined in the basic
document of May 15. The directive of May 20 signed by Timoshenko
and Zhukov strongly emphasizes building defensive fortifications to
“prevent any enemy breakthroughs.” Yet this must be interpreted as
meaning unexpected, premature enemy breakthroughs that might
disrupt Soviet plans for attack as the units were getting into position.
Significantly, a point overlooked by Gorodetsky, the same order
mentions the need to ready the troops “under favorable conditions to
launch sudden strikes”: “... launch sudden strikes”—as Stalin used to
say, “Clear, one would think.”
Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that among the documents for the
immediate pre-June 22 period the number of intelligence “warning”
reports to Stalin et al. increase. So the presumption might be that as
these reports poured in, the military—and perhaps even Stalin—then
became more conscious of the need for defensive preparations after
having earlier put the stress on offensism. Or perhaps a combination of
offense and defense, as Gorodetsky seems to suggest, is what was
reflected in the various directives of late May or early June.
At same time, Gorodetsky ignores documents, which perhaps were
not in his possession, such as that of early June 1941—for example,
Shcherbakov’s directive respecting Red Army indoctrination.
Sovietologists regard Shcherbakov as one of the closest aides of Stalin.
The gist of this directive may be found in Shcherbakov’s own wording
of June 1941 (no exact date in June is attached to the document): “In all
of their propaganda and agitation, party organizations must indoctrinate
soldiers and the public in a militant, offensist spirit subordinating [all
books, air, print media, etc.] to this most important task.”18 The party
secretary then quotes Lenin:

They tell us that war must be conducted only in a defensist


[oboronitel’nuyu] way when over us hangs a Sword of
Damocles. [But] in saying this means to repeat the long-lost
idea of petty-bourgeois pacifism. If we were to be disposed
that defensist way in the face of constantly-ready enemy
forces, they would in effect have to make us vow never to
resort to actions in the strategic-military sense that would be
offensist and, therefore, for us to act stupidly if not
criminally.

Shcherbakov then concludes: “Thus, Leninism teaches that the country


of socialism, exploiting a favorable international situation, must and
cannot avoid seizing the initiative in launching offensive actions
against the capitalist encirclement with the aim of extending the front
of socialism.”
Gorodetsky has pointed out, so far as is known now rightly, that the
Red Army’s various military directives did not make such militant,
offensist “ideological” statements. One might ask, however, Can we
conclude that that was because there were no such motivations behind
the planned Soviet military actions? Or was it because a certain
“division of labor,” or departmentalism, precluded military references
to ideological perspectives in strictly military Red Army directives,
since they would be encroaching on party territory? Gorodetsky himself
indicates that, as he puts it, “separation of various governmental bodies
[within] a totalitarian regime” could lead to contrasting contents and
emphases in the various reports, messages, and directives emanating
from different governmental and party institutions, civilian and
military.
Last-minute actions: In chapter 13 of Grand Delusion, Gorodetsky
canvasses Stalin’s and the army’s actions just before the German
attack. He mentions Zhukov’s June 10 message that parallels and
reflects Stalin’s fear lest Red Army preparations “provoke” a German
response. This in turn was in response to Red Army General Mikhail
Kirponos’s signal of alarm over extensive German troop movements
observed by scouts in his sector of the Western Front, the Kiev Military
District (KVO). Zhukov in effect warned Kirponos not to “drive the
Germans into an armed confrontation.” 19 Finally, on June 11, Zhukov
ordered the KVO to be put on war footing by July 1—a date apparently
reflecting Stalin’s belief that the Germans would not be ready to attack
until sometime in July. This was perhaps a reflection of Zhukov’s
earlier statement in his Red Army Day article in Pravda, on February
23, 1941, that Soviet military preparations had a long way to go before
they would meet their goals.
In Gorodetsky’s reconstruction of what happened next through the
fateful Saturday night and Sunday morning of June 21–22, the
“Khrushchev version” is largely followed (see chapter 6). In contrast to
Gorodetsky, Russian researcher and author Edvard Radzinsky proposes
this version in his 1996 biography of Stalin: “Stalin, meanwhile, still
did not believe that Hitler would make such a mad move. Convinced
that time was on his side, he went on calmly making ready for his
turnaround—the sudden blow of which his generals had written in
‘Considerations.’ But for all his certainty, he grew nervous as the
fateful day approached. There were too many reports of German troop
movements near the frontier.”20

Respected Russian historian Aleksandr Nekrich references a letter from


one V. P. Zolotov, posted in summer 1939, that was found recently in
the archive of a Soviet party secretary and close Stalin aide, Andrei A.
Zhdanov. The writer addresses the issue of whether the Soviet Union
should adopt a policy of collective security with the Western Allies
against Hitler. He then goes on to draw certain inferences from this as
affects the Soviet posture in June 1941. The letter reads in part as
follows:

We must always keep in mind precisely and clearly that our


main fundamental enemy in Europe and in the whole world
is not Germany, but England.... We must finally understand
that the most acute differences in government ideologies by
no means preordain a similarly acute antagonism of political
and economic interests.... Entering into an agreement with
England and France against Germany, even concluding a
military alliance with them, we should not forget for one
moment that in this alliance, England and France will
conduct a policy insincerity, provocation, and betrayal with
respect to us.
Nekrich makes this comment on the letter:

Zolotov’s letter came astonishingly close to predicting the


course Stalin eventually chose. His idea that the capitalist
powers would exhaust themselves in war, enabling the USSR
to “throw the sword of the Red Army into the scales of
history,” is a concise formulation of the “Stalin doctrine.”
Stalin had adumbrated this notion as early as 1925, but did
not include it in any published works until after the close of
World War II. Only when the seventh volume of his
“Works” appeared in 1949 did the general public have
access to a speech he delivered at a plenary session of the
Central Committee on January 10, 1925: “Our banner
remains as before, the banner of peace. But if war begins,
then we will not sit with our hands folded—we shall have to
act, but act last. And we shall act in order to throw the
decisive weight on the scales, a weight which could tip the
balance.”21

Stalin would use this tactic with considerable success.

NOTES
The first epigraph is in J. V. Stalin, Sochineniya, vol. 10 (Moscow:
Ogiz, 1947), p. 28.
The second is in A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2
(Moscow: Mezhdunarodniy Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), p. 162.
Regarding the third, ex-KGB Major-General Oleg Kalugin is an
author and former deputy chief and then head of foreign intelligence
(First Directorate) of the KGB serving in the 1970s and 1980s at the
time of Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev. He wrote this
interpretation, and more on the topic, to me in an e-mail message in
1998. Kalugin appears to be correct in asserting (see below) that no
document exists that indicates Stalin was preparing to attack Germany
precisely in mid-1941 or 1942. Author Ernst Topitsch errs in stating
that Stalin’s May 5, 1941, address to the graduating cadets included a
reference to a date of attack (Stalin’s War: A Radical New Theory on
the Origins of the Second World War [New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1987], p. 8).
The fourth is from P. I. Bobylev, “Tochku v diskussii stavit’ rano. K
voprosu o planirovanii v general’nom shtabe RKKA vozmozhnoi voiny
s Germaniyei v 1940–1941 godakh,” Otechestvennaya Istoriya, no. 1
(2000), pp. 59–60.
1 Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, p. 510; J. V. Stalin, Otchetnyi
Doklad na XVIII S“ezda Partii o Rabote Ts.K. VKP(b), Mar. 10, 1939
(Moscow: Ogiz, 1948), p. 10. In the same speech, Stalin referred to
England, France, and the United States as “nonaggressive states” as of
March 1939.

2 Mikhail Narinsky, “Soviet Foreign Policy and the Origins of the


Cold War,” in Soviet Foreign Policy 1917–1991: A Retrospective, ed.
Gabriel Gorodetsky (London: Frank Cass, 1994), chapter 10, p. 108.
Soviet economist Yevgeny Varga’s memorandum to Molotov, dated
June 24,1947, suggests that an economic collapse in Western Europe
was imminent and that the Marshall Plan attempted to forestall it, so
why support it?

3 Quoted from Comintern records as reproduced in Yu. N. Afanas’iev,


ed., Drugaya voina 1939–1945 (The Other War 1939–1945) (Moscow:
Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennii Universitet, 1996), p. 43. (For the full text,
see appendix 3.)
4 V. I. Lenin, “The Proletarian Revolution and Renegade Kautsky”
(1917), in Albert L. Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations (New
York: Pergamon-Brassey’s Publishers, 1987), p. 318, where other such
statements may be found on successive pages. The following Lenin and
Stalin quotations are in Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations, pp.
310–21; and in P. J. Vigor, The Soviet View of War, Peace and
Neutrality (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), chapter 2.

5 Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations, p. 316.

6 Timo Vikhavainen, Stalin i Finni (St. Petersburg: Zhurnal Neva,


2000), p. 136.

7 Vikhavainen, Stalin i Finni, pp. 340–42.

8 A. N. Yakovlev, Omut Pamyati (Moscow: Vagrius, 2000), p. 46.

9 Volkogonov quoted in Russian military historian Bobylev’s


pregnant article, “Tochku v diskussii stavit’ rano,” p. 43. Most Russian
military historians claim that Stalin took a very deep interest in
military affairs; archive documents prove this, as does the daily log of
visitors to Stalin’s Kremlin office. Yet author Gabriel Gorodetsky
alleges that Stalin had no wish “to take control of the military” (Grand
Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia [New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1999], p. 211).

10 See Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty. In reproducing the two


important Stalin speeches on May 5,1941, the volume’s editor gives
this background for the Stalin texts published: “No stenographic copy
of Stalin’s speech [to the graduates] was made and no text was found
among his personal papers. In May 1948 the Central Party Archive
(Ts.PA of the Central Committee) received a typed copy of the speech
that was recorded by K. V. Semyonov (presumably an employee in the
Ministry of Defense . . . ). It was planned to include the speech in the
14th volume of Stalin’s Works. But this volume never appeared. The
accuracy of the Semyonov text is testified by the fact of its similarity
to the paraphrasing found in the diary of G. M. Dimitrov [head of the
Comintern], who was present at the May 5 gathering in the Kremlin and
who copied the text into his diary.” Yakovlev then reproduces the
whole Dimitrov text. Interestingly, as the editor notes, Pravda (May 6,
1941) printed a terse notice that the ceremony had been held and that
Stalin had addressed the graduates. Then the Soviet authorities
proceeded to leak but falsify the contents and tenor of the speech and
Stalin’s remarks during the reception. These leaks were targeted on
London, Berlin, and elsewhere amid speculation that the Red Army was
said by Stalin to be not yet prepared for war, that the Soviets were
trying to ward off any hostilities until autumn 1941. German
Ambassador Schulenburg was led to believe, by well-aimed leaks to
him, what Stalin purportedly had said on May 5—namely, that “new
Soviet compromises with Germany” were in the offing! On his part,
author Alexander Werth, based in London, also was misled to report in
his book, for British consumption, Russia at War 1941–1945, according
to Yakovlev, that Stalin had indicated in his remarks on May 5 that
“talks with England were still not concluded” and that Stalin “was
attempting to delay a conflict until autumn.” Such false leakage
amounted to Soviet disinformation in which even experienced
journalists could be taken in.

11 Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, book 2, pp. 215–20, emphasis


added.

12 V. A. Nevezhin, Sindrom Nastupatel’noi Voiny (Moscow: Airo-XX,


1997). The author cites archives at the secret police, the office the
Russian president, the Russian Ministry of Defense, and others.
Another historian who relies on the latest documentary evidence is
Mikhail I. Mel’tyukhov. His findings are discussed in the conclusions
in chapter 8.

13 Quoted in Topitsch, Stalin’s War, p. 106.

14 Voyennyi entsiklopedicheskyi slovar’ (Moscow: Voyenizdat, 1986),


pp. 476, 496. The same stress on offense (nastupleniye) is found in all
editions of the larger Sovetskaya Voyennaya Entsiklopediya (Soviet
Military Encyclopedia) (Moscow: Voyenizdat) going back to the 1930s
twelve-volume edition and the 1978–80 eight-volume edition, edited by
N. V. Ogarkov.

15 Albert L. Weeks, “Was General Andrei Vlasov, Leader of the


Russian Liberation Army, a True Russian Patriot or a Traitor?” World
War II magazine (November 1997), p. 8.

16 Gabriel Gorodetsky, Mif “Ledokola” Nakanunye voiny (The Myth


of the “Ice-breaker” on the Eve of War) (Moscow: Progress-Akademii,
1995); Gorodetsky, Grand Delusion.

17 Andrei A. Kokoshin, Soviet Strategic Thought, 1917–91


(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), p. 162. Chapter 3 of Kokoshin’s
book is entitled “Offense and Defense in Soviet Military Strategy.” The
book is not cited by Gorodetsky.

18 Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, pp. 301–03.

19 Gorodetsky, Grand Delusion, pp. 227, 278. General Kirponos died


in battle in 1941.

20 Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (New York: Doubleday Publishing Co.,


1996), p. 456. Chapter 6 of the present book takes a closer look at the
events as the Germans attacked.
21 Aleksandr Nekrich, Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German-Soviet
Relations 1922–1941 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997),
pp. 105–06.
6

Stalin’s Response to “Barbarossa”—I

Stalin said, “Everything Lenin created we have lost.” After


this for a long time Stalin actually did not direct military
operations and ceased doing anything at all. He resumed
active leadership only after some members of the Politburo
visited him and told him that it was necessary to take certain
steps immediately in order to improve the situation at the
front. Therefore, the threatening danger which hung over our
Fatherland in the first period of the war was largely due to
the faulty methods of directing the nation and the party by
Stalin himself.... Even after the war began, the nervousness
and hysteria which Stalin demonstrated, while interfering
with actual military operations, caused our Army serious
damage. Stalin was very far from understanding the real
situation developing at the front.

—Nikita Khrushchev

No, Stalin saw through it all. Stalin trusted Hitler?? He


didn’t trust his own people! . . . Hitler fooled Stalin? As a
result of such deception Hitler had to poison himself, and
Stalin became the head of half the world! . . . No one could
have been ready for the hour of the attack, even God
himself! ... In essence, we were largely ready for war.

—V. M. Molotov

June 22, 1941—Russia’s “December 7”—is a day that for Russians will
forever live in infamy. Sixty years ago the Nazi armies, following
Generals Mannstein’s and Guderian’s battle-tested blitzkrieg tactics
and strategy applied so successfully against Poland in autumn 1939 and
the Western Allies in 1940, juggernauted into the Soviet Union in
massive strength before the first light of dawn. Within hours they had
advanced 30, 40, and 50 miles in various sectors along Russia’s western
frontier. How could it have happened that over 160 Soviet divisions—
infantry, cavalry, tank, and motorized infantry divisions deployed for
weeks along the USSR’s over 2,000-mile western border—could be
caught totally unaware by a huge invasion force of ten Wehrmacht
armies embracing over 150 divisions?
On June 13, 1941, just nine days before the invasion, Soviet agent
Richard Sorge, who was having an intimate affair with the wife of a top
Japanese official through whom he gleaned top-secret information,
informed the Kremlin that a German attack would be launched on June
22. Sorge said to the NKVD in Moscow: “I repeat, 10 armies combined
in 150 divisions will launch an offensive across a broad front.” Yet
Stalin chose not to believe these and other such reports, some of which
also reached him from official circles in London and Washington. The
Soviets were even getting information virtually from inside the German
General Staff. In it they had a spy codenamed “Starshina,” who
dispatched highly sensitive information about German war plans.
Moreover, with the Enigma Machine and Ultra deciphering messages
from the German High Command, the British at Bletchley Hall were
able to read Wehrmacht General Staff communications traffic. They
knew all about Operation Barbarossa. Yet Stalin reputedly thought that
the British and Americans were only trying to embroil the Soviets in a
war with Nazi Germany. His own agents, he wished to believe, were
being duped or were simply imagining things. On one occasion when a
highly placed Soviet spy in Germany reported on preparations for
Operation Barbarossa, Stalin uttered, “Tell him to go **** his mother.”

OBVIOUS SIGNS
Under Stalin’s very nose some obvious things indeed were happening.
For instance, through June 1941 crates of German diplomatic staff
members’ personal belongings, including their pet hounds, were
observed being readied for air shipment out of the Soviet Union.1 This,
too, was mentioned in Soviet intelligence reports passed to the top
Soviet leadership.2
Stalin apparently contented himself with what appeared to him to be
the general Soviet military advantage over any prospective enemy, in
the west or the east—that mighty Soviet “deterrent” as it existed, at any
rate, on paper. Above all, the Soviet leader continued to nurse the idea
that Germany would not and could not prepare such an attack any time
before 1942. And even then, was Hitler so “mad” that he thought he
could take on a laterally extended country of eleven time zones, a
military potentially capable of mobilizing upward of 10,000,000
soldiers, and an economy capable of converting rapidly to a war
footing? Here Stalin had obviously exaggerated the effectiveness of
German military intelligence, which in retrospect appears to have been
grossly delinquent. (So in many respects was Soviet military
intelligence.)
Indeed, on the eve of the Nazi attack in mid-1941, Soviet Russia’s
military might did look impressive. According to statistics published in
Russia in 1995, the Soviets had six million soldiers under arms (not
including a backup reserve of millions of conscripts of all ages), with
an estimated actual or potential 300 divisions of armed men with
120,000 artillery pieces and mines, 23,300 tanks, and 22,400 aircraft.
Its planes outnumbered the Germans’ two to one—that is, 10,000–
11,000 Soviet military aircraft to 5,000 total of the Luftwaffe, about
half of which were deployed on the Eastern Front on the eve of the war.
True, some but by no means all this equipment was obsolete. In
particular Red Army tanks were in some cases world class. However,
the new weapons actually deployed in the units—the heavy KV and
medium T-34 tanks, for instance—were in insufficient numbers. There
seems to have been a total of only 500 of these impressive tanks to
spread among the many divisions deployed along the western frontier
in summer 1941. Where the Germans were unlucky enough to confront
the T-34, they found that their main anti-tank gun, the 37-milimeter
model, was so ineffective against the Russian monsters that disgusted
German infantrymen referred to it as an “army-door knocker.”3
Other new equipment likewise was spread thinly and in some cases
illogically, so that many units were left with arms of at least decade-old
vintage. 4 There were late versions and upgrades of tanks and planes—
all part of Stalin’s long-term plans for waging war—that had not yet
been deployed to the forces at the front or were sparsely deployed
where they were available. In spring, these forces had been augmented
by an additional deployment of 800,000 Red Army troops brought up
from rear positions. About two-thirds of this imposing force were
positioned in several military districts (Kiev, Carpathian, etc.) directly
abutting—dangerously, that is—the western frontier directly opposite
the Wehrmacht formations.
On their part, for Operation Barbarossa the Germans had assembled
on their Eastern Front an order of battle that included nineteen German
Panzer and fifteen motorized infantry divisions and some 3,350 tanks,
7,230 artillery pieces, and 2,770 combat aircraft. On the first day alone
of the invasion, with such forces the Germans had destroyed 1,200
Soviet aircraft, 800 of which were destroyed on the ground.
By the end of the first month of the war, of the 170 Soviet divisions
by then deployed on the Western Front, twenty-eight were destroyed,
and seventy more had lost half of their complement of soldiers and
equipment. Considerable damage, nonetheless, was done to the
Wehrmacht by the outclassed, yet brave Red Army soldiers—but not
enough to blunt the attack overall. The war did not begin gradually to
turn decisively in the Soviet favor until after the successful defeat of
the German assault on Moscow in December 1941–January 1942. Some
observers in the West single out, indeed, the Battle of Stalingrad in
early 1943 as the turning point in the war. But the earlier date is more
accurate, a fact acknowledged, for instance, in the diary of German
Army Chief of the General Staff General Franz Halder. He expresses
such pessimism even as the Wehrmacht’s attack on Moscow was under
way in autumn 1941.
In the following four months since June 1941, the Germans had
occupied more than 500,000 square miles of territory with a population
of 74.5 million. By December 1941, the number of those killed or taken
captive was a total of seven million Soviet soldiers, of which four
million were POWs; desertions on the Soviet side numbered upward of
one million men. Total losses in equipment on the Soviet side during
the six-month period were staggering: 22,000 tanks and upward of
25,000 aircraft were destroyed.

STALIN’S BEHAVIOR: CONVENTIONAL


VERSION
According to the conventional version of the catastrophic events of that
early Sunday morning, the zero hour itself of Operation Barbarossa had
caught Stalin asleep in his dacha just outside Moscow. Stalin had
returned to his “nearby,” as it was known, weekend retreat at Kuntsevo
after an unusually tense, late-night session of Politburo in the Kremlin.
The discussions that took place that fateful Saturday night, June 21–22,
remain secret, although impending war was surely the main item on the
agenda.
It was around 3 A.M., June 22, when Stalin, it is said, was awakened
by his bodyguard, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Vlasik (Stalin’s
“Bormann”), to answer an urgent telephone call. On the “Vertushka”
(official phone line) at the other end was his right-hand man, Aleksandr
Poskrebyshev. It was he who broke to him the incredible news of
extended armed conflict along the Russian western frontier.
Minutes later Zhukov, then chief of the General Staff, telephoned
Stalin. According to Zhukov Stalin became nearly speechless as
Zhukov related briefly what was happening—to the best of his
knowledge under prevailing conditions of primitive communications—
on Russia’s exploding Western Front. Then Stalin, breathing heavily,
continues this version of the story, immediately got on the phone to
summon the Politburo to meet with him in an immediate, emergency
session in the Kremlin.
Vlasik drove him at top speed to the Kremlin in Moscow in the
Leader’s black, Packard-like ZIL limousine with its bulletproof
windows. They sped along the widened highway specially used for
official vehicles (and, as planned in the 1930s, made broad enough, it
was rumored, to accommodate Soviet tanks). As he raced toward
Moscow, writes the late Stalin biographer, ex-Soviet General Dmitri
Volkogonov, Stalin gazed out of the limousine windows “at the empty
streets unaware that German aircraft were already on their way to bomb
Soviet towns and aerodromes.”
When he arrived at the Kremlin and was driven through the
Borovitsky Gate, General Volkogonov relates, Stalin went up to his
office by the entrance reserved for him alone. Silent and somewhat
cautiously, the members of the Politburo filed into Stalin’s tall-
ceilinged, wood-paneled office. They were followed by Timoshenko
and Zhukov. Without a word of greeting, Stalin said to no one in
particular, “Get the German consul on the phone.”
Molotov left the room. A tense silence descended. When the taciturn
commissar of foreign affairs returned, Molotov felt all eyes were fixed
on him. He went to his place at the table. With his speech impediment,
he stammered out: “The Ambassador [Schulenburg] reported that the
German government has declared war on us.” He glanced at the piece
of paper in his hand: “The formal reason is a standard one: [reading]
‘Nationalist Germany had decided to forestall an attack by the
Russians.’” (Ironically, this was the same pretext used by the Soviets
when they attacked Finland, also on a Sunday, in December 1939.)
“Stalin sat down and looked at Molotov with angry eyes,”
Volkogonov continues, “as if he were remembering his [Stalin’s]
confident prediction six months earlier that Hitler would ‘never wage
war on two fronts’” and that the USSR had plenty of time to strengthen
its western defenses. Then some of the general officers were asked to
report what they knew about the invasion. They did not have much to
report; communications were inadequate, to say the least. But what
they did report stunned everyone, above all Stalin. Volkogonov
continues:

Stalin had never had so great a shock in his life. His


confusion was obvious, as was his anger at having been so
misled, and his fear before the unknown. The Politburo
members remained with him in his office all day [on June
22], waiting for news from the border. They left the room
only to make a phone call, have a cup of tea, or stretch their
legs. They said little, hoping that the failures were only
temporary. No one doubted that Hitler would receive a
resounding rebuff.
Eventually, as more grim news poured in, Stalin certainly did begin
to “understand.” The first, cautious order sent to the commanders along
the western border and to the Baltic fleet already engaging the enemy—
Directive No. 1—was itself tragically flawed. Still laboring under the
idea that the Germans were not truly unleashing a war in the full,
strategic sense along the whole western frontier, Stalin directed:
“Undertake no actions that could cause political complications [with
Germany].” Moreover, Stalin apparently thought that the conflict,
already under way, could be settled peacefully. It was in any case, he
thought, a limited one allowing Germany only to gain some momentary
advantage.5
In spring 2000, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Soviet capture of
Berlin, Generals Kvashnin and Gareyev commented on these events as
follows in an article published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s weekly
supplement, Independent Military Review: “[This directive (of June 22,
1941)] disoriented the troops. If in actual fact the Supreme Commander
himself did not know whether the country was in war or not, how would
a regiment commander be able to conduct operations if he did not know
what political consequences would follow?” This is a valid point. Then
began a period in which, for almost two weeks, Stalin kept himself out
of view, or so the story goes. Yet, as we will see, the visitors’ log to
Stalin’s office, which was recently released from the archives, shows
the leader at work there day after day following June 22. He gave no
radio addresses; he submitted to no newsreel appearances; he did not
rally his people, although the Politburo, some claim, timidly suggested
that he do so. There were no authoritative declarations to the people
from the “Leader and Genius of All the Peoples” as to what had
happened or what the Soviet leadership was going to do to stem the tide
of invasion.
On its part, the Politburo, it is said, hoped Stalin would immediately
address the population. Instead, according to the conventional version,
Stalin was “too stunned”—or was he protecting his exalted image?—to
go before the public himself. Instead, he gave Vice Premier Vyacheslav
Molotov the thankless task of publicly explaining the disaster and of
spurring the people into retaliation.
Only on July 3 did Stalin emerge to give a radio address about the
ongoing war. In this speech, the Soviet dictator addressed the whole
Soviet people with an opening that unprecedentedly contained the
phrase “brothers and sisters.” Apparently, during the days of being out
of the public eye, Stalin pondered as to the best way to rally the people.
Addressing them simply as “citizens” or “comrades” was not the way,
although “comrades” did remain in part of the opening. Adding the
religious sounding brat’ya i sestry—“brothers and sisters”—was a
harbinger of further concessions to the citizens’ religiosity that was to
come (among them, the ringing of church bells, the refurbishing of the
Orthodox Patriarchate, the reopening of some churches, and so on).
Indeed, here the Soviet leader showed that he was not lacking in
flexibility and political acumen. In a sense, his partly nonideological
form of address to his people at this crucial time provides a
microcosmic sample of Stalin’s overall “tactical” elasticity of a type in
which he could put aside ideology in favor of higher priorities. Stalin
was capable of such “ideological suspensions” when the dire need to do
so arose—as it indeed did on several occasions during his quarter-
century reign.
By November 1941 Stalin was ready to give a newsreel appearance—
reviewing a military parade, as was his custom, from atop the Lenin
Mausoleum. The occasion was the celebration of the twenty-fourth
anniversary of the October Revolution, accompanied by a military
parade in Red Square, November 7, 1941. On that same day the Red
Army was battling the German Army less than 50 miles to the west and
south of the Soviet capital. Under such dangerous circumstances, would
the heavily protected Stalin take such a risk? What if a German Heinkel
bomber... ?
As disclosed only recently, the ultra-security-conscious Stalin did
not actually speak in Red Square as broadcast by radio and depicted in
a newsreel at the time of the parade. His speech was later dubbed onto
the footage shot of the parade in Red Square on that bitter-cold day.
The security-conscious Stalin had ordered the cameras to be set up later
inside the Kremlin in order to stage the speech. Audiences watching the
newsreel presumably did not notice that on that cold day the Leader’s
breath did not show up on the screen as he stood reading his address—
as it turned out, indoors....
Thus, on the preceding day, June 23, the stuttering (ironically,
England’s World War II monarch, King George VI, had the same
speech defect) Molotov had done what he could in his brittle, tenor
voice to broadcast the address. Nearly everyone heard his shocking
words. In those days, the Communist authorities had rigged up at
almost every main intersection or meeting place in towns and villages
across the USSR ubiquitous indoor and outdoor loudspeakers attached
to telephone or power-line poles. The address was aired several times.
As for Stalin himself, so the traditional story goes, he continued to
remain “secluded” for weeks. He would venture only haphazardly to the
Kremlin, or he would stay in a house on Kirov Street in the capital, or
sometimes he would stop over at General Staff Headquarters a few
blocks away from Red Square. Although there were as yet no air-raid
shelters in Moscow—except, of course, for the intentionally deeply dug
subways—all official buildings were very closely guarded.
However, as exploding shells near the outskirts of the capital began
to be audible (some exploding in Moscow itself—scars from them are
still visible here and there in the capital city) later in summer 1941,
extensive protective measures were adopted. A special shelter was built
for Stalin near his dacha. Also, evacuation measures were ready, if the
need arose, to move Stalin and his entourage to safely distant
Kuibyshev, some 600 miles to the southeast of Moscow on a large loop
of the Volga River. This is how the standard version of Stalin’s
behavior and actions reads during those first hours, days, and weeks of
the German invasion.

NEW VERSION OF STALIN’S BEHAVIOR


Today, however, that version is being challenged in several ways as
new facts have come in. As they reexamine the documents of newly
opened archives, some Russian historians now are recasting their
investigations in terms of answering several big questions:
If Stalin was totally unaware of a German military threat and
therefore was “caught utterly by surprise” by the German attack—
as official Soviet histories of the period claim—why had he
started actively mobilizing for war the way he did and as
documents show that he did in the opening months of 1941? Why
would he plan to preempt a German attack, as some Russian
military writers today insist that he was (see chapter 5), if he did
not expect a sudden attack from the other side? The same
documents, some of them new, show that he was fully aware of the
ongoing German buildup opposite Russia’s Western Front.
On the other hand, assuming that Stalin was preparing his own
preemptive attack for a later secret date (e.g., July or autumn 1941
or possibly in 1942) and, at any rate, was actively preparing for
war of whatever type against the Wehrmacht to be launched by
either side at some proximate date, it seems possible that Stalin
was simply misled as to the exact day and time of Hitler’s attack
(as Molotov said). And as a result, he was preempted by Hitler
instead of the other way around (see discussion in chapter 8).

I will attempt to answer these questions in the light of what some


authors presume were Stalin’s putatively offensive war plans. At the
same time the defensist argument will be canvassed keeping in mind
whatever old or new information points to a credible inference. The
overarching questions can be put as follows:
Had Stalin poorly prepared Soviet Russia for a German invasion?
Was he, in fact, taken totally unaware when the Germans crossed
Soviet borders in force in the early morning hours of June 22,
1941, or did the catastrophe ensue because of other reasons?
As a result of the surprise attack, did Stalin virtually collapse,
secluding himself for weeks in his dacha outside Moscow, leaving
others, the military and his closest aides in the Politburo, to cope
on their own with Hitler’s “double cross”?

Until recently, the answer to each of the above was a nearly


unqualified yes. But new evidence has been uncovered in Russian
archives and from memoirs by witnesses to the events and Stalin’s
behavior on June 22 and during the days immediately following the
debacle on that fateful Sunday morning (see chapter 8). These
testimonies cast doubt on some of the assumptions of the conventional
view—namely, that Stalin was “paralyzed,” hysterical, and so on; that
he removed himself from the scene in total confusion, wallowing in
alcohol, as it is claimed, for several weeks; and so forth.
The conventional view has reigned unchallenged up to now ever
since First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev gave his secret speech to the
Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956. Much of its contents were
repeated in Khrushchev’s post-1964 taped interviews when he became a
pensioner and were then assimilated by historians—Russian and
Western—as the gospel truth. But the veracity, not to mention the
motives, of some of Khrushchev’s contentions concerning Stalin and
his aides, who had since 1953 in many cases become Khrushchev’s
rivals, has since been questioned.
One of the most telling recent pieces of evidence that this version
may not be true is Stalin’s—that is, The Boss’s—very busy Kremlin
office log during those trying days and weeks from the end of June to
the first week of July. Recently disclosed documents show that instead
of the Leader’s seclusion, Stalin was constantly present in his office on
all the days following the German attack, working, as usual, past
midnight.6 Without evidently missing a single day, Stalin was holding
important meetings in his office in Moscow with all of his top military,
party, and government officials. Documents found in newly opened
archives disclose that the Soviet leader engaged in daily, many-hour
sessions with his top military and civilian officials. Among the most
frequent regular visitors of the dozen or so such top officials in Stalin’s
office on a daily basis in late June were party and government officials
Molotov, Beria, and Kaganovich and military staff officers Zhukov,
Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko, and Vatutin.
Khrushchev and others could invent freely. Stalin always tried to
keep his vilest deeds—and mistakes—off the record. He ordered almost
all top-secret documents and stenographic transcripts (that is, when
they were kept) to be destroyed. What he did not destroy, his closest
aides destroyed, to protect either the Leader or themselves. Yet the
ultrasecretive dictator could not erase all the evidence. Some formerly
hidden facts have been discovered in civilian and military archives in
Russia in recent months and years. Since the demise of communism in
Russia, certain memoirists have begun to speak out in ways that clash
with the formerly accepted versions of events.

DEFENSE PREPARATIONS
One of the bigger “white spots” in the Soviet history of World War II
concerns, as we have seen, Stalin’s defense preparations for a German
invasion of the USSR. Obscured, too, are what his actions really were
immediately after it. As to war preparations, we saw in the preceding
chapter that in his address and remarks at the reception for the
graduating military cadets in the Grand Kremlin Palace on May 5,
Stalin had said outright that the principal, near-term enemy was
Germany. For which threat, he said, stepped-up military offensive (his
word) preparations should be made, including, it seemed, planning of a
Soviet preemptive attack. From documents released in recent years, it
has been learned that Stalin was already sending out feelers to a
number of states in search of future wartime allies—allies in a common
war against Germany. Among those governments approached were
France, the United States, England, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and
Poland—the latter three being approached through their governments-
in-exile.7
Before Khrushchev’s secret speech to the Twentieth Communist
Party Congress in Moscow in February 1956, Stalin’s war preparations
were officially described as having been “fully adequate” and to have
been “exclusively defensive” (sugubo oboronitel’niye), not offensist.
Soviet declaratory military doctrine and strategy, it was averred, was
one merely of “active defense” (aktivnaya oborona). The party line was
that Stalin had wanted peace as long as possible. At the same time he
built up the country’s industries and defense capability for a war that he
“wisely knew” would eventually—as he said, “inevitably”—come. It
would be a war that would be foisted on the USSR, certainly not an
aggressive one launched on Soviet initiative.
In similar fashion, immediately after World War II, Stalin was to
order his civilian and military propagandists to describe what he called
the long-standing Soviet defense policy’s recognition of “permanently
operating factors” in war. These boiled down to a Soviet policy of
overt defensism based on the USSR’s eleven-time-zone-wide territory
and its “peaceful aims” and intentions. Was this mere disingenuous
hindsight?
Likewise, in this earlier, pre-1956 version it was claimed in
retrospect that by the time of the Nazi–Soviet agreements of August-
September 1939, Stalin and the military had wanted merely to “delay”
the inevitable “big war” for as long as possible so as to be fully
prepared when it finally did come. As it turned out, it was
“postponed”—by a year and ten months, as Stalin boasted in his first
war speech on July 3, 1941. By the Germans’ “perfidious” attack on
June 22, Hitler had torn up these agreements, double-crossing Stalin by
unexpectedly putting into action Operation Barbarossa—which had
been first conceived by Hitler back in June 1940 if not foreshadowed in
Hitler’s 1920s “bible,” Mein Kampf.
However, three years after Stalin’s death in 1953, much of this
boilerplated version of the events of 1941 began to be scrapped in part
by the Communist Party and its corps of historians. With this came
Khrushchev’s secret “de-Stalinization” speech at the Twentieth
Communist Party Congress in February 1956. He brought to light many
alleged new facts (including, it should be noted, a number of
Khrushchev distortions) about Stalin.
The late dictator was depicted by Khrushchev—one of whose aims
was to tar some of his rival comrades with Stalinism, thus exonerating
his own deep involvement in Stalin’s crimes (especially in the purges
in Ukraine of 1937—39)—as not only genocidal and paranoiac. Stalin
was depicted as a self-glorifier who covered up his many costly policy
mistakes before and during the war that had cost the lives of millions of
soldiers and civilians. Many of the dictator’s military decisions were
fatally flawed, Khrushchev alleged. They were the product of a
disordered mind. For instance, according to Khrushchev, to the horror
of his top military commanders Stalin used a large globe instead of
large-scale military maps to plot Red Army counteroffensives. (The
suggestion here was that Stalin acted like Ivan the Terrible, as in Sergei
Eisenstein’s famous film of the late 1930s of the same name, in which
the half-mad, bearded tsar is seen running his acquisitive fingers over
an outsized globe as he planned his next conquests.)
However, by contrast, more credible information, based on later
memoirs by retired soldiers and others, proposes that although Stalin
interfered in battlefield decisions made in the first months of the war,
by the later war years he began gradually to defer more to the
professional military—Zhukov, Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko,
Vasilievsky, Rokossovsky, Vatutin, Yeremenko, et al. Their input was
crucial when the commander-in-chief, Stalin, approved the soldiers’
detailed combat decisions. However, in the earlier period of the war,
many of the reckless, offensive operations, like many of Hitler’s after
1941, were ill-conceived and needlessly costly in casualties. Stalin was
largely responsible for approving, if not initiating, these ill-conceived,
early offensive operations.8
According to Khrushchev, one of the Stalin-fostered fantasies about
fateful 1941 grossly covered up the late dictator’s utter lack of military
acumen as well as his “actual” behavior on the eve of and after the
German invasion on the fateful morning. In his narrative delivered at
the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956 and in his taped memoirs after
1964, Khrushchev ridiculed the notion that Stalin had been a “genius-
strategist,” that after the Wehrmacht’s surprise attack, he had risen
bravely to the Nazi challenge, firmly taking the helm, ably leading the
Soviet armed forces and people to ultimate victory.
The truth, claimed Khrushchev, was just the opposite. There was no
surprise at all—that is to say, not to Khrushchev and a few others—
about an imminent German invasion. Only Stalin was duped, by
himself. As Khrushchev put it, “Sparrows were chirping about it at
every crossroad.” Yet, he complained, Stalin had stubbornly refused to
believe the many of his own intelligence agents’ reports that had
crossed his Kremlin office desk prior to the attack. These reports,
dozens of them, had warned of an approaching, full-scale Nazi
invasion. Some warnings had come from Stalin’s best foreign agents.
Other reports came from official sources in the West, including a
personal, secret message from Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who
did not reveal his source of information, namely, the Enigma Machine
that by means of the Ultra operation at Bletchley Park decoded
messages of the German High Command).
Stalin’s highest military intelligence (GRU) officer, Lieutenant-
General Filipp I. Golikov, helped water down or otherwise discredit the
most ominous reports before they reached Stalin. (Stalin, who
centralized all sensitive functions within himself, had set up no
“intelligence assessment” department—a department that was later
instituted within the Soviet Ministry of Defense only after his death.)
Lavrenti Beria, head of the NKVD, also participated, it is said, in the
discrediting of such reports. Most of this behavior by Golikov and
Beria was motivated by sycophancy. On June 21, the day before the
German invasion, Beria personally assured Stalin: “I and my people [in
the NKVD], Iosif Vissarionovich, firmly remember your wise
instruction: Hitler will not attack us in 1941!”9

SO, DID STALIN “FALL TO PIECES”?


Like most tyrants, Stalin surrounded himself with toadies. The
character “Shuisky” in Boris Godunov is the perennial Russian
stereotype of a sycophantic official who has the ear of the tsar. The
Kremlin was full of Shuiskys during the reigns of Lenin, Stalin, and
their successors. When the attack occurred, Khrushchev had snarled,
Stalin “fell to pieces.” He was paralyzed by “nervousness and hysteria.”
He retreated in confusion to his dacha at Kuntsevo, where, as some
others have claimed, he began drinking heavily. Hours after the
invasion, he cowered when some Politburo members came to visit him
at his suburban retreat. Stalin thought they were going to “arrest him,”
Khrushchev claimed. But Molotov, Malenkov, Beria, et al. had come to
visit the dictator in order merely to plead with him to rise to leadership.
But Stalin was inconsolable. “We f***** up, all is lost,” Stalin
reportedly growled sullenly to the astonished Politburo squad.
Moreover, in these first days and weeks, Stalin immediately started
wheels turning, according to ex-General Dmitri Volkogonov, the post-
Soviet biographer of Stalin, to work out a cowardly compromise with
Hitler. In the proposed deal, according to this story, which has never
been fully confirmed, the German invasion would be halted. In return
in his suit for peace, Stalin would agree to hand over to the Germans all
three Baltic Soviet republics, plus Moldavia as well as a large share of
Ukrainian and Byelorussian territory already occupied by the invading
Wehrmacht. Recent Russian sources deny the authenticity of the “cave-
in” story.
A similar version of Stalin’s “collapse” was put out in the officially
cleansed (under Brezhnev in the 1960s and 1970s) memoirs of Marshal
Georgi Zhukov. So too have various post-1956 Communist historians
put out like similar stories—at least up to 1992. Noted post-Soviet
military historian Volkogonov himself hews to this version in his 1991
biography of Stalin. Present-day Communist and pro-Communist
newspapers in Russia still claim that Stalin’s domestic policies in
“building socialism” were mostly justifiable. Yet, they say, his
behavior before, during, and immediately after June 22,1941, was
inexcusably “abnormal.” So was his penchant for brutally purging
coworkers and committing genocide against whole peoples and classes,
they admit. But the latter-day Communists aside, the old version of
Stalin’s behavior on the fateful days in late June 1941, inundated as it
is by new documents, is losing its grip on credibility.

NOTES
The first epigraph is from Nikita Khrushchev, “Special Report to the
Twentieth Party Congress, February 24–25, 1956,” in The Crimes of the
Stalin Era: Special Report to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union, ed. Boris I. Nicolaevsky (New York: New Leader
Magazine, 1962), p. 40.
The second is from Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics.
Conversations with Felix Chuev (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993), pp. 23,
29.
1 This was told to me by Dr. Ellsworth Raymond, who was on duty in
the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the weeks and months before, during,
and after the Wehrmacht attack.

2 Dennis Showalter, “Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s Greatest


Gambit,” World War II Magazine (May 2001), p. 45.

3 Anatoly Kvashnin and Makhmut Gareyev, “Sem’ Urokov Velikoi


Otech-estevnnoi” (“Seven Lessons from the Great Fatherland War”),
Nezavisimoe Voyennoye Obozreniye (April 28-May 11, 2000), p. 2.
Kvashnin is present chief of the General Staff; Gareyev is a well-known
ex-Soviet military strategist and author, now president of the Academy
of Military Science, Moscow.

4 Andrei A. Kokoshin, Soviet Strategic Thought, 1917–91


(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), p. 109.

5 Compare corresponding documents containing agents’ reports in A.


N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi
Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998). Interestingly, Soviet Ambassador to
Berlin Dekanozov’s and agents’ reports from various sources on Rudolf
Hess’s flight to Scotland provide a somewhat ambivalent picture as to
the true circumstances and motivations allegedly surrounding the flight
of the “deputy führer” who parachuted from an Me-110 onto a Scottish
estate on May 10, 1941. Gabriel Gorodetsky’s view, paralleling that of
reports filed to Moscow by such agents in Britain as Kim Philby,
proffers the belief that Hess was put up to the mission by Hitler in
order to conclude a modus viviendi with Britain in opposing the USSR.
However, later information reaching Stalin suggested that Hess, a
“romantic” and “peace lover,” had made the flight strictly on his own
initiative. This theory was borne out by the vehemently angry reaction
in Germany, including that of Hitler himself, to Hess’s flight, as one
Soviet agent duly reported. It is by no means clear from the available
evidence whether Stalin went along with the conspiracy theory, least of
all that England was about to mend bridges with Nazi Germany. The
notion that Stalin bought the conspiracy theory, however, despite what
Churchill or others claimed to the contrary, became frozen as the
Soviet party line on the incident. However, some contemporary Russian
historians suggest that Stalin’s reaction may not have been so
“paranoid,” especially as clarification of the incident reached him from
various sources. Such information indicated distinct German
displeasure with Hess’s action, further confirming that Hess had acted
alone. Incidentally, many of Philby’s reports seemed designed to cater
to what he and some of the other operatives regarded as Stalin’s
basically suspicious nature. Some Western historians display a
suspiciousness toward England’s policy at that time that is at least as
virile as Stalin’s reputedly was.

6 Yu. A. Gor’kov, ed., Kreml’, Stavka, Genshtab (Tver’: RIF Ltd.,


1999), pp. 255–56. Stalin and his visitors on the following dates are so
logged: June 22—Molotov, Beria, Timoshenko, Mekhlis, Zhukov,
Malenkov, Mikoyan, Molotov, Shaposhnikov, et al.; June 23—
Molotov, Voroshilov, Beria, Timoshenko, Vatutin, et al.; and June 24—
most of the same party, government, and military officials were in
conference with Stalin, usually in the middle of the night, when Stalin
preferred to work. All the rest of the days up to Stalin’s first radio
address to the country, on July 3, show the same picture of Stalin, the
alleged “workaholic,” evidently very much in control of himself and
others, thus putting into question opposite interpretations.

7 Mikhail Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi shans Stalina Sovetskyi Soyuz i


bor’ba za Yevropu 1939–1941 (Stalin’s Lost Opportunity: The Soviet
Union and the Battle for Europe 1939–1941) (Moscow: Veche, 2000),
pp. 495–96.

8 A number of post-Soviet Russian military writers note that Stalin, in


contrast to Hitler, butted in less and less on a regular basis as the war
went on. Hitler, on the other hand, increasingly defied any contrary
advice from his generals, especially his line commanders on the
Eastern Front, in setting tactics and strategy. The latest interpretations
by some Russian military writers of Stalin’s decision making at later
phases of the war depict the dictator in a relatively favorable light as
being quite up to the job as commander-in-chief. Yet this is still being
roundly debated among Russian historians. That he took no interest in
military matters, as alleged by historian Gorodetsky, is, of course,
untrue.

9 Aleksandr M. Nekrich, Pariahs, Partners, Predators: German-


Soviet Relations, 1922–1941 (New York: Columbia University Press,
1997), p. 244.
7

Stalin’s Response to “Barbarossa”—II


An updated recounting of the events surrounding June 22 and its
aftermath is based in some cases on new evidence. Still later, as-yet
forthcoming documentary evidence could, of course, refute or on the
other hand support the current “revisionist” consensus. Yet in their
books and articles the newer version is taking hold among Russian
historians in ways that profoundly embarrass some previous histories
and Stalin biographies in Russia as well as in the West by making them
look inaccurate and outdated.
Stalin’s war preparations for the country and his own actions in mid-
1941 during the first days of the German penetration into the USSR
have been reanalyzed from approximately 1997 to the present in such
Russian publications as Voprosy Istorii (Problems of History), Vtoraya
Mirovaya Voina (The Second World War), Istoriya Sovetskogo
Obshchestva v Novom Osveshchenii (The History of Soviet Society in a
New Light), Voenno-Istoricheskyi Zhurnal (Military-Historical
Journal), Prepodavaniye Istorii v Shkolye (The Teaching of History in
the Schools), and other journals. Together with these a number of new
books published in Russia likewise elucidate the controversy, among
them in particular the volume edited by Russian academician Yuri N.
Afanas’iev, Drugaya Voina 1939–1945 (The Other War 1939–1945),
published in 1996, as well as Edvard Radzinsky’s biography of Stalin
that came out in the same year. Added to these titles is the 600-page
study of the period 1939–41 written by military historian Mikhail I.
Mel’tyukhov, published in late 2000, and Pavel Sudoplatov’s 1994
work, Special Tasks, based on Sudoplatov’s work as deputy chief of
Soviet foreign intelligence in this period.
Fresh insights can also be pieced together from reading recently
available memoirs by, in some cases, informed, putatively reliable
participants and on-the-scene observers at that time. These include
Vyacheslav Molotov, No. 2 to Stalin; Pavel Sudoplatov, deputy chief of
foreign intelligence in the 1930s and early 1940s; the elder son of
Stalin’s security police chief Lavrenti Beria (1899–1953), Sergo;
Georgi Malenkov’s (1902–88) son, Andrei; Radzinsky’s eyewitness
informant, Yu. E. Chadayev, who was Council of People’s Commissars
official stenographer at Stalin’s dacha; and others whose testimonies
may be found in other archival documents. Furthermore, an informative
documentary film, under the title Stalin and Hitler: Dangerous
Liaisons, prepared by Russian and French scholars, was issued in 1999
under the auspices of Films for the Humanities and Sciences.
(Incidentally, this film’s French and Russian historian-consultants hew
to an “offensist” line on Stalin military strategy of that time.)
That Molotov, for one, may be apologetic toward Stalin in certain
respects is undoubtedly true. Yet in all cases these writers show
considerable well-roundedness. They are otherwise extremely critical
of Stalin—for example, as in the memoirs of Beria’s and Malenkov’s
sons, Sudoplatov, and so forth. Nor is Molotov totally uncritical of the
Khozain.

LATEST VERSION
The latest picture that emerges of Stalin’s behavior and actions in the
immediate aftermath of June 22 differs in significant respects from
Khrushchev’s and other traditional treatments found in Soviet and
Western histories. The new version is revealing and instructive. In their
memoirs published after the demise of communism, Molotov, Sergo
Beria, Sudoplatov, and Andrei Malenkov make the following points, as
do some authors in the historical journals mentioned above (in
particular, in The Teaching of History in the Schools, no. 1 [1998]):
Stalin did not “collapse” upon hearing from his aides and military
commanders of the German invasion on the morning of June 22.
Though he was angry and cursing, he retained his composure.
Molotov puts it this way in his 1993 memoirs, Molotov
Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics, edited by Felix Chuev:

Stalin seldom lost his temper . . . I wouldn’t say he “lost


his head” [in the days following the invasion]. He
suffered, but he didn’t show any signs of that. He is not
portrayed as he really was. They depict him as a
repentant sinner! Well, that is plainly absurd. [In that
period] he worked as usual, day and night, never losing
his head or his “gift of speech.” Molotov further noted
that Stalin had edited the speech that he, Molotov,
delivered the day of the invasion.
Molotov’s version sounds believable if for no other
reason than this close aide of Stalin nevertheless is
critical of Stalin here and there in his brutally frank
conversations with the interviewer, Chuev. (Molotov
dissembles occasionally in claiming, for instance, that
there were no secret protocols to the 1939 Nazi–Soviet
agreements.)

Sudoplatov, in his book Special Tasks, states:

In his memoirs, Khrushchev portrays Stalin’s “panic”


and “confusion” in the first days of the war and later. I
saw no such behavior. Stalin did not isolate himself in
his dacha until June 30, 1941. The Kremlin diary [office
log] shows that he was regularly receiving visitors and
monitoring the deteriorating situation. From the very
beginning of the war, Stalin received Beria and [his
deputy] Merkulov in the Kremlin two or three times a
day.... It appeared to me that the administrative
mechanism of command and control was functioning
without interruption. In fact . . . I maintained a deep
belief in our ultimate victory namely because of the
calm, clear businesslike issuance of these orders.1

For his part, Sergo Beria notes in his book that Khrushchev was a
notoriously poor witness (Georgi Malenkov’s son, Andrei, says the
same) as to Stalin’s behavior in Moscow in late June 1941.2
Khrushchev, Sergo Beria insists, was a habitual liar and loved to
flatter himself while embarrassing and overpowering his Politburo
rivals and enemies with tales of their own “Stalin taint”
(meanwhile overlooking his own deep involvement in the bloody
purges in Ukraine in the late 1930s).
In any case, on June 22, as well as on the following days,
Beria’s son points out, Khrushchev was posted in far-off Kiev,
Ukraine. Indeed, his name does not appear on Stalin’s late June
office log, mentioned above. His last appearance in Stalin’s office
is recorded as taking place on June 16! So how could he have
possibly known how Stalin was acting?
For his part, Sergo Beria claims that he himself was near Stalin
during those days and that he held private conversations about the
fateful events with his father, Lavrenti Pavlovich, top member of
Stalin’s inner circle in charge of the secret police and other
sensitive affairs of state. He witnessed everything in those days.
As Sergo Beria writes:

Not a single book [including Zhukov’s memoirs] does


justice to the facts.... What Khrushchev and Zhukov had
to say [about Stalin’s behavior and actions at that time]
has no relation to historical accuracy. A fact is a fact,
after all. [The facts are that] on the [Saturday] night of
the invasion it is not true that military commanders were
sleeping peacefully or were partying. On the contrary.
[As to Stalin] he was, to be sure, upset about how things
were going at the front. When it is suggested that Stalin
never expected Hitler to strike, that he had faith in
Hitler, or that the latter had deceived him is just another
myth. . . . Stalin was not so much upset by the so-called
“surprise attack” as he was by the fact that the Army
was incapable of holding back the first onslaught of the
attacking forces.
[Various] commanders, including Commissar of
Defense Timoshenko and Chief of the General Staff
Zhukov before and during the first hours and days of the
attack . . . had many times assured Stalin and the
Politburo that the Red Army could withstand an attack.
[Earlier] they had always said, “The Army possesses all
that is needed.” But when Stalin heard that the army was
retreating toward the east, he was quite naturally
shaken.... It is true that our Army was not yet
sufficiently prepared to fight against mechanized forces
such as the Wehrmacht. [Sergo Beria, like some post-
Soviet Russian historians, blames the military for this
lack of preparation.] Stalin knew about the invasion plan
“Barbarossa” before June 22nd from intelligence
officers. ... In his first speech of July 3rd Stalin himself
spoke about how Hitler, by his “perfidious attack,” had
violated the Nazi-Soviet Pact, “ignoring the fact that the
whole world would regard her as the aggressor.”
Then Stalin added significantly as though implicitly
to answer the question, Why didn’t the Soviets strike
first? “Naturally,” argued Stalin, “our peace-loving
country, not wishing to take the initiative in breaking a
pact, could not itself resort to perfidy.”

Leaving aside here the question of whether Stalin and the Soviets
actually may have been developing a military strategy for waging
their own preventive war against Germany (see discussion in
chapter 5 and in the conclusions in chapter 8), the political-
declaratory side of this doctrine, as opposed to the unpublished,
operational part of doctrine and strategy, did not and possibly
could not say this in so many words. If it had, such aggressive
statements—made, at least, to a broad domestic and foreign
audience rather than to a close circle of military or party officials
—would damage the Soviets’ global reputation. It would also
preclude any possible aid that might eventually come to the USSR
from the as-yet noncombatants and potential anti-Axis,
“coalition” partners, such as the United States.
As it was, the USSR was able to win the support of the Western
Allies and the invaluable Lend-Lease aid mainly because the
USSR was seen as the hapless victim, not the initiator of an
aggressive attack. There is even some evidence that Stalin was
prepared to fall back on Allied aid in case other scenarios failed.
In other words, he did not entirely burn his bridges with the West
despite the Nazi-Soviet agreements of 1939–40. Note the fact that
he kept the “Westerner” Litvinov in limbo rather than in
purgatory. He was later to be exploited toward the West once
again as deputy commissar of foreign affairs and Soviet
ambassador to the United States (during World War II). Anastas
Mikoyan, the Armenian “Teflon” perennial in the Stalin Politburo,
is another example of a useful emissary. He flaunted the air of a
debonair, flexible negotiator. Yet his own political loyalties and
affinities were rigidly Stalinist—at least while Stalin was alive. In
the post-Stalin period, a similarly accommodationist role was
played by another hardy perennial in the Politburo, Premier Alexei
Kosygin. Like Mikoyan, he, too, was an orthodox party-liner on
foreign affairs though seemingly less rigid than other top Soviet
officials on domestic policy.
One of the Russian historical journals points out that the problem
with Stalin’s assessment of the intelligence reports that warned of
the invasion (coming from such agents as Richard Sorge in Tokyo)
was their often contradictory nature. One author points out that the
contradictions even extended to inside the Nazi leadership itself,
where invasion dates were repeatedly shuffled and changed, and
that Soviet partial knowledge of this also confused the picture.
Hitler’s decisions, as we have seen, were kept secret even from
top Wehrmacht commanders, not to mention from the amicable
German ambassador to Moscow, Count von Schulenburg. The
latter strongly opposed a German war against Russia. Schulenburg
was later executed in Germany because of his alleged involvement
in the 1944 plot to kill Hitler, and possibly also for his earlier
pessimism about Barbarossa and evident friendliness toward the
Soviets.
Nor, as it is alleged in both new and old Russian literature on
the subject, did Stalin trust what Churchill had told him. Stalin
was convinced, not without some basis, that the Western powers
kept hoping that Germany would attack the USSR, not only
because it was a Communist dictatorship but because the Germans
would thereby become bogged down in a self-destructive two-
front war. The new “generation” of Russian historians also nearly
unanimously adheres to this point of view. In some instances
Soviet agents also made this point—as they said, based on secret
information—in their messages to the top Kremlin leadership.
Meanwhile, English officials, particularly within the military, it is
true, erred profoundly, as Hitler himself had, in thinking that the
Soviets could not withstand a German onslaught whether it were
made in the short or long run.
Half joking at a postwar Big Three summit, Winston Churchill
brought up this sensitive subject personally to Stalin—namely, the
latter’s show of incredulity toward the prime minister’s warnings.
Stalin punned back that, after all, it was hard for him to believe
“everything” that he was told, even by his own agents.
One Russian journal author points out that the well-known story of
Sorge’s pinpointing of the date of the Nazi invasion is itself
suspect (see Yu. P. Bokarev in The Teaching of History in the
Schools, no. 1 [1998]). Bokarev notes that Sorge reputedly made
his prediction even before Hitler and the German High Command
had themselves fixed the date! In any case, Stalin, it is revealed in
new documents, had a copy of Wehrmacht planning embodied in
part in Operation Barbarossa. This is also claimed by Sergo Beria.
However, the actual top-secret date of Barbarossa, as noted, was
withheld from the German documents.
In the matter of Stalin’s preparations for meeting what he and
everyone had expected would be a German attack sooner or later,
there is, as we saw in chapter 5, evidence that, indeed, defensive
and possibly also offensive war preparations were speeded up in
the Red Army and Air Force, on Stalin’s orders, during spring
1941 right up until the invasion. One-half of all the Soviet armed
forces was deployed on the front facing the Germans after massive
mobilization and redeployments were under way in late spring.
Many emergency preventive measures, it turns out, had been taken
—though not completed—to meet the invasion threat—or to
prepare to wage a preemptive attack from the Soviet side.3

SOVIET UNREADINESS: THE SMOKESCREEN


Meanwhile, Stalin realized that the Soviets possibly would not be ready
for full-scale war of whatever type, defensive or offensive. Some
analysts say that he thought the Red Army would be prepared, however,
by July 1941. Yet in his interview with Chuev, Molotov claimed that
the USSR would be ready for battle only “by 1943.” In any case, the
Soviet leader evidently calculated that on their part the Germans would
not likely attack much before 1942.
As a result of these surmises, Stalin relied on the diplomatic ploy of
stalling and misleading Hitler by means of several ruses that he thought
would work. For example, as we saw, he ordered the news agency Tass
and the party newspaper Pravda in mid-June to publish vehement
denials that the Soviets were building up forces along their western
frontier. They were, the item suggests, doing nothing extraordinary
there, nor was German–Soviet friendship weakening in any way. Nor
were Red Army scouts—ground or airborne—positioned along the
frontier permitted to shoot at straying German planes or in any way
create a rumpus that would “provoke” the Germans. The Boss himself
explicitly conveyed such warnings to the Red Army leadership. He
once remarked to Zhukov (according to Zhukov), “You must be out of
your mind” in thinking the Red Army was prepared (in late spring
1941) to wage a preemptive strike. This was Zhukov’s denial that Stalin
had ever accepted the thinking contained, for example, in the notorious,
offensist Timoshenko–Zhukov memorandum of May 15 (see discussion
in chapter 5 and the conclusions in chapter 8).
Besides making these verbal assurances through his controlled press
—that he knew would be read and duly assimilated to Soviet advantage
in Berlin—Stalin made sure that the deliveries of raw materials by rail
to Hitler continued on schedule, which they did right up until June 22
(see chapter 4). Yet whether this diplomatic gambit reflects gross
negligence and inattention on Stalin’s part or whether, on the contrary,
it was a last-ditch effort to “postpone the inevitable” remains a matter
of contention among Russian historians. The latter have said they are
looking into this question thoroughly as more documents possibly are
released from the several archives—namely, those in the Ministry of
Defense, in the president’s office, in secret police possession under the
supervision of the Documents Department of the Federal Security
Service, in the old Central Committee archives of the CPSU, or as
collected in the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for
Documents and Archive Affairs in Moscow.

STALIN MISLED AND MISLEADS HIMSELF


In early 1941, it seems to be true that Stalin was resentful as he made
his vehement denials of the veracity of some of the reports he was
receiving from his intelligence agents. On one occasion, he told the
messenger of such information to tell the agent to go “f*** his
mother.” Others he accused outright of being agents of Germany. A
psychologist might proffer the opinion that Stalin deep down simply
did not want to believe what he was being told. It upset his plans to
delay war or, for that matter, possibly one day to wage his own
offensive war at his, not Hitler’s, time of choosing. Reflecting on
Stalin’s behavior with such speculation in mind is perhaps instructive.
At any rate, according to Molotov, all that Stalin really cared about
was preserving and strengthening the Soviet Union. Yet the Russian
historian Bokarev suggests that it was more complicated than that. He
writes that Stalin was confused by the conflicting mixed signals he was
receiving from his agents as well as by what he thought he himself
knew of Hitler’s plans and actions as of early 1941. Stalin acted as
though he had a direct line to the Führer. There have even been rumors,
as yet unverified, that Stalin secretly conferred one-on-one with Hitler
in Poland in autumn 1939.
Stalin misled himself, it seems, prior to the invasion. For instance,
the German buildup on Russia’s Western Front in spring 1941 looked a
good deal less threatening to Stalin and perhaps to some of the military
than to those very governments or governments-in-exile into whose
countries Hitler was pouring additional troops—states such as
Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Rumania. At times, on the other hand, it
appeared that German military moves in Eastern Europe were aimed at
establishing airbases at a safe distance from the West European arena.
Such bases were to be used, allegedly, in the German air and rocket war
against Britain, not in a war against the USSR. Perhaps Stalin adopted
this rationalization as well. Perhaps concerted German disinformation
had misled him in this way.
Moreover, as some recent documentation shows, Stalin could not
really believe that Hitler would bring on himself a two-front war—as
had happened so disastrously for Germany in World War I—without, at
least, first finishing off Britain with the ongoing air war and erstwhile
German plans for an invasion of England. Apparently, Stalin was not
impressed by Hitler calling off Operation Sea Lion, the intended
invasion of England. To Stalin’s mind, Hitler remained tied down in the
West. The Soviet leader was well aware that the German capital city
was being bombed—actually, during one of Molotov’s sojourns there
in 1940. Furthermore, what about America? That formidable state
sooner or later was bound to be another “imperialist” country warring
against Germany. Already it was steadily shipping Lend-Lease supplies
to Britain.
Another important factor affecting if not misleading Stalin was the
flight of the top Nazi aide to Hitler, “deputy führer” Rudolf Hess, to
England in May 1941. From the Cambridge, et al. spies in England—
Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt—Stalin was led to believe that
England might well one day close a deal with Germany. Only then
would Germany turn on the USSR. Similar information—or was it
misinformation? —reached Stalin from his ambassador in London,
Ivan Maisky. British Ambassador Stafford Cripps occasionally also
used such “information” in order to pressure Stalin to come to terms
with the British before it was too late.
All this, runs one version of these events, must in turn have
influenced the “paranoid” Soviet dictator into thinking that Britain (and
the United States) were involved in a plot to deceive him—namely, that
British warnings of an imminent German attack were intended merely
to provoke a Soviet–German war. Some of these informers seemed to
be motivated as much by sycophancy toward (or fear of) Stalin as by
any hard information in their possession. Pleasing or placating the Boss
was often uppermost. One’s very life could depend on it, after all.
Another factor was the reluctance of Stalin’s sycophantic chief of
GRU, General Golikov, to relay to Stalin the grim truth about the
imminent execution of Operation Barbarossa. Given Stalin’s firm, self-
deluding conviction about Hitler’s intentions and Stalin’s
overconfidence in his own powers to anticipate Hitler’s moves, to do so
could well have threatened Golikov’s life, as, indeed, it actually had the
lives of other informants.
Although Sergo Beria denies it, other historians believe that NKVD
Chief Lavrenti Beria himself was among those who misled Stalin. He is
said to have assured Stalin with the prediction that Hitler would not
attack if it meant a two-front war for Germany. All of this input may
have contributed to Stalin’s shock at the time of the invasion.
New evidence shows something else: Intensive preparations for
meeting an imminent German invasion, perhaps for preempting an
attack, were actually under way intensively in late spring and in June.
The problem was that these preparations—movements of troops from
the interior, even as far away as Siberia, to the front, securing means of
signals and communications along the front, getting arms and
fortifications in place, securing airbases with anti-aircraft batteries,
building new defenses of the forward “Molotov Line” type, and much
else—had not been completed in time. And this was amid evident
assurances to Stalin from the Red Army High Command that the army
was on the ready and invincible. Such reassurance may or may not have
convinced Stalin.
Above all, it was fully expected by the military and civilian
leadership that a forewarning of up to two weeks would precede any
actual invasion as the Wehrmacht actually concentrated forces for such
a vast undertaking. There would be time enough for both Red Army
echelons—the first on the frontier and the “covering,” second echelon
—to deploy and rally to the defense of the country. In other words, if
this was a purely military miscalculation, the blame for the surprise
may not rest solely on Stalin’s shoulders. Stalin had been largely
assured by his military commanders, after all, that there was no worry.
The Red Army was ready to respond to “any contingency.”
There were exceptions. At the very last minute, Admiral Nikolai G.
Kuznetsov, on duty in the Baltic, was one of the few commanding
officers to be quite thoroughly aware of the immanency of the German
danger. One or two frontline army commanders risked their lives by
likewise trying to alert the political and military authorities in Moscow
to the immediate danger of an attack in late June.
Even after Soviet planes were being destroyed on the ground and
Soviet ground troops were attacked in the eerie predawn light, the top
command in Moscow, including Stalin, was incredulous as to the extent
or seriousness of the hostilities initiated by the Germans. At least
twenty-four hours into the invasion, Stalin is alleged to have believed
only that border skirmishing had merely gotten out of control. He
insisted that Soviet troops should do nothing to instigate further
hostilities. One of his earliest orders of June 22, as we saw, was based
on this assumption.

THE MILITARY SITUATION ON JUNE 22


All of these factors, say the new crop of Russian historians, are what
led to the debacle that followed the June 22 invasion, together with
German occupation of so much of European Russia in the first months
of the war. It was not entirely a case of Stalin’s personal
miscalculations or of his cowardice after the German juggernaut started
rolling. More likely, it was the suddenness and sheer boldness of the
Wehrmacht blitzkrieg—the unexpected, successful application to
Russia of blitzkrieg tactics that had worked so well against an entirely
different type of nation-state enemy in the West in 1940.4 These were
tactics that were not supposed to be applicable against Russia, given its
ultimate preponderance of troops and territorial space in which to
retreat before counterattacking. This perception lulled the Russians into
complacency concerning a German attack.5
In mid–June 1941 Soviet Russia had “on paper” 303 infantry, tank,
motorized, and cavalry divisions, of which one-quarter, however, was
still in the process of being formed.6 Nor was the Red Navy
unimpressive with, for example, 212 submarines and many surface
ships. Equipped forces deployed along the western frontier numbered
163 infantry, cavalry, tank, and motorized divisions consisting of
2,743,000 men with 57,000 guns and mortars, 12,762 tanks, 8,696
military aircraft in good condition, and 545 naval ships. All these
composed the first strategic echelon of the Soviet military forces in the
west. To cover them the Red Army had deployed along the frontier
thirteen general forces armies.
On June 21, an urgent message was sent to Georgi Dimitrov,
Comintern general secretary, from close friends, the Chinese
Communists based in northwest China.7 Signed by Chou En-lai and
Mao Tse-tung, the message warned Moscow of an imminent German
attack. It drew this reply from Molotov: “The situation is not clear. A
big game is in progress. Not everything depends on us. I will talk this
over with J. V. [Stalin]. If something special comes out of it, I will
telephone you!” The call was never made.
One still wonders what Stalin meant when, in his victory speech at a
Kremlin reception in honor of Red Army commanders on May 24,
1945, he seemingly “repented” as follows as he heaped praise above all
on one of the combatants on the multinational Soviet side, the “Russian
people”:

[Before the war] our government committed no few


mistakes; at times our situation was desperate, as in 1941–
42, when our army was retreating, abandoning our native
villages and towns.... Another people might have said to the
government: You have not come up to our expectations. Get
out. We shall appoint another government, which will
conclude peace with Germany and ensure tranquility for us.
But the Russian people did not do that, for they were
confident that the policy their government was pursuing was
correct.... I thank the Russian people for this confidence! To
the health of the Russian people!

ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS


Adolf Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 was
motivated, some historians believe, by the Führer’s fear of an eventual
two-front war that would likely be fought in the future on the European
continent. He imagined that the war would widen, that, for example,
America, a crucial, prospective combatant, sooner or later would enter
the fray. Thus, by waging and winning a “preventive war” against the
USSR already in 1941—even before he had defeated England
throughout 1940—the German dictator sought to preclude a repeat of
that crucial German predicament of World War I: that is, augmented
forces of the Western Allies fighting Germany on one side and their
Russian ally fighting Germany and the Central Powers in the east.
America’s Expected Role in the War: Hitler had America on his
mind, as did apparently Stalin. They both reasoned that sooner or later
this large, crucial country with its impressive economy and defense-
producing potential would surely enter the global war. Hitler sought to
preempt this likelihood by defeating Russia ahead of time, thereby
dominating the Eurasian continent as proposed by his “official
geographer,” General Karl Haushofer.
Stalin, by contrast, appears to have relished U.S. entry into the war
even before the USSR was attacked. Whether Stalin looked forward to
the likelihood of American involvement in hostilities with a diabolical
aim in mind (namely, seeing America weakened and revolutionized by
global war that was to include Japan) or with a more realistic
expectation that America might thence become a future Soviet ally
remains a subject for future investigation. At present no documents
support one or the other view.
Still, by early July 1941, he immediately sought Western aid against
the “common foe,” Germany. Much earlier, in his speech to the
Eighteenth Party Congress in March 1939, Stalin had referred to the
United States as a “nonaggressive” capitalist country. Later, he had sent
friendly feelers in the direction of Washington.
Did Stalin Anticipate the United States as an Ally?: The second
volume of Yakovlev’s edited The Year 1941: Documents reproduces a
revealing conversation that was held in Moscow on June 5,1941,
seventeen days before the German attack. The talks were between U.S.
Ambassador Lawrence Steinhardt and Deputy Commissar of Foreign
Affairs S. A. Lozovsky.8 Both made significant concessions on trade
and various other issues. It was obvious that Lozovsky had been given
orders from above in the Kremlin to be forthcoming to the American.
The new Soviet attitude was quite perceptible.
The Unwise Decision to Attack Soviet Russia: The decision to attack
the USSR ran absolutely counter to Hitler’s earlier, explicitly expressed
tactic of seriously courting that state on a long-term basis. Indeed, both
dictators had described their emerging interstate friendship as “long
lasting.” Hitler and Stalin’s joint initiatives in 1939–40 in signing
various sweeping agreements, including the Nazi–Soviet pact of August
1939 (see chapter 4), was, to Hitler’s mind, a safe way of avoiding—
short of war—the pincers of a two-front vice.
Still, it might be asked, if forestalling a two-front war by diplomatic
means was indeed Hitler’s principal motive in establishing “lasting
friendship” with Soviet Russia, thus waiving Nazism’s condemnation
of “Jewish Bolshevism,” why did the Führer decide to turn against his
newfound Soviet ally in June 1941? Was, in fact, such an invasion
nested in Hitler’s plans all along? Likewise, Stalin is known to have
confided to intimates that sooner or later Germany and the USSR would
be at each other’s throats. As far as Germany was concerned, in his
diary Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels indicated the same
prediction. So it would appear that stated sentiments on both sides of
long-lasting friendship were disingenuous.
Was Hitler “Forced” into the Invasion?: Was Hitler forced or, on
the contrary, did Stalin’s own new show of westward aggressiveness,
his large-scale territorial annexations in 1939–40 against German
interests in Central and Balkan Europe, and his various demands
proffered in late 1940 so profoundly alarm the Germans that Hitler was
“forced” to preempt Soviet Russia’s own aggressive plans vis-à-vis
Germany? Although historians—especially those in Germany and
Russia today—do not agree on the answers to these questions, on one
thing they unanimously concur: Germany’s invasion of Soviet Russia
in mid-1941 turned out to be Hitler’s fatal mistake, dooming him to
defeat against the Allies in World War II. His rout in Russia, like
Napoleon’s 125 years before, paved the way to the Allied victory, not
only over the European Axis but also over Japan, the newly become
Asian ally of Hitler and Mussolini.
Significantly, too, Operation Barbarossa had precluded Soviet
Russia’s own joining, as seriously anticipated in Moscow and Berlin, a
projected Four-Power Alliance, an expanded Axis, that was to include
the USSR, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and militarist Japan. This
monumental scheme was seriously discussed in secrecy between the
Germans and Soviets in 1940 and is now part of the public record.
However, because of Operation Barbarossa, this potential grand
alliance, embracing three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa),
obviously could never see the light of day. However, had it
materialized, without doubt the outcome of World War II would have
been vastly different.
The Controversy Continues: Today two groups of historians—some
Russian, some German, others Americans or British—take opposing
views on the question of the Nazi–Soviet alliance and the German
attack together with its consequences. One school insists that Hitler, as
early as mid-1940, defying doubts in the minds of trusted aides (among
them, it appears, Air Marshal Hermann Goering, Foreign Minister
Joachim von Ribbentrop, Propaganda Minister Goebbels, and Nazi
philosopher Alfred Rosenberg), had decided to invade Russia and
terminate Nazi–Soviet friendship and collaboration—a scheme that he
had in general long nurtured. The timing of the attack was not a badly
calculated one. Having failed to subdue England in the air blitz of
1940–41 and fearing eventual U.S. participation in the war, possibly
alongside Soviet Russia, Hitler decided to act decisively before it was
too late. He would settle scores with Bolshevik Russia once and for all
and return, in a sense, to what he had preached so vehemently in Mein
Kampf. Whatever Stalin was up to at that time by way of aggression or
pure defense was irrelevant. So runs one conventional interpretation.
On its part, a second group of historians—among whom are some
contemporary Russian authors and scholars together with some
Russian, German, and British ex-officials, memoirists, and other
writers who in part rely in their research in newly opened Russian
archives—insists that by their aggressive actions, Stalin and Molotov
by mid-1940 had profoundly alarmed and infuriated Hitler.9 At that
time Moscow had begun making brazen demands on the Germans, such
as insisting on giving the USSR a unilateral free hand in the oil-rich
Middle East, the Balkans, Finland, and the Turkish Straits while
threatening to seize the Rumanian oil fields. In starting to gobble up
large swatches of territory in the Baltic and East European regions, the
Soviets did not bother to inform Berlin, Moscow’s putatively sworn
ally, of the dates and details as warranted by their agreements of 1939.
According to Ribbentrop, Hitler’s pro-Russian, anti-British foreign
minister, Hitler thus was “forced” into making a decision to stop Stalin,
a conclusion he had reached, Ribbentrop and others claimed after
World War II, only in late 1940. Hitler had not made the Operation
Barbarossa decision, as alleged by some, Ribbentrop has claimed, as
early on as June or July 1940.
As indicated above, one of the most intriguing, controversial
questions haunting historians of World War II concerns Soviet—or
rather, Stalin’s—behavior in the aftermath of the signing of the several
Nazi–Soviet agreements in Moscow beginning in August 1939. As we
have seen, in the conventional interpretation of the run-up to the
German invasion of June 21, 1941, the Stalin regime was and still is
depicted in a number of histories as being terrified at the prospect of
any ensuing deterioration of Nazi-Soviet relations, let alone all-out
war. After all, since autumn 1939, the Soviet leader had ordered his
government-controlled media not to criticize Hitler and Nazism. Not
even the word fascism was allowed to appear in print in Soviet media.
Moreover, besides shipping him vital raw materials used in the war
against the Western democracies, Stalin did all he could in other ways
to help or even placate Hitler. For example, he ordered, communist
fifth-column agents to sabotage Western defense plants (i.e., until mid-
1941) while sending congratulations to Hitler when the Wehrmacht
took Paris in May 1940.
On several occasions and via various memoranda, Stalin and
Molotov indicated fulsomely to Berlin that Moscow was on Germany’s
side in fighting the so-called bourgeois, plutocratic, and colonialist
regimes of Western Europe. Both dictators relished the prospect of an
utterly destroyed British Empire that together they would help bring
about.
To this hypothesis, other authors respond: Yes, Stalin did all these
things to placate but also eventually to mislead Hitler. The Soviet
dictator, it is alleged, greatly feared Hitler. He did all he could to
demonstrate his friendship with his totalitarian German counterpart as
well as showing loyalty to the Nazi–Soviet agreements. Stalin had
drunk toasts to Hitler, whom, he said, he knew the German people
admired and whose “iron rule” in Germany he sincerely respected no
less than Hitler appreciated Stalin’s new order. Stalin had made sure
that the billions of dollars worth of deliveries of war-related raw
materials—rubber, oil, food, textiles, rolled steel, and other goods
under the economic aid terms of the Nazi–Soviet agreements—were
made punctually. They were, in fact, kept strictly on schedule, reaching
Brest-Litovsk in former Poland and then downloaded from the wide-
gauge Soviet railroad cars onto the narrow-gauge tracks to ship them on
to Germany. Stalin also said that Soviet–Nazi friendship was “sealed in
blood.”

LATEST OFFENSIST ARGUMENTS


Meanwhile, as some Russian historians allege today, Stalin, who was
stalling for time during this “breathing space,” was secretly planning
his own offensive war against Germany and, in fact, the rest of Europe
(see chapters 5 and 7). Historians who think this way find themselves in
agreement with, for example, the British ambassador to Berlin in the
late 1930s, Sir Neville Henderson. According to Henderson, Stalin’s
true motive in joining forces with the Nazis and helping them defeat
the West was so that the USSR could stay out of the fray while
watching the Allies and Axis destroy one another. The Soviets would
help along this process of self-destruction by aiding Germany and by
sharing the spoils of aggression with them, as described above. Perhaps
the ambassador had been reading Stalin’s Works. At the conclusion of
this collaboration and ultimate German defeat or the mutual exhaustion
of the belligerents, Henderson insisted, the Soviets would thereupon
march west for the kill, sovietizing all of Europe as openly stated by
their own ideologists as well as by the Communist International
(Comintern). Henderson, it seems, had taken seriously Stalin’s
statements along these very lines in 1925.
However, once Hitler perceived that this was Stalin’s game, some
argue, Hitler decided to act. Operation Barbarossa was formally
approved by Hitler for active preparation and implementation by
December 18, 1940. As some historians note, this decision was made
precisely at the time German disagreements with their Soviet “partner”
over Rumania, Bulgaria, Finland, the straits, and so on were reaching a
climax. When they were informed of Hitler’s final decision to go ahead
with Barbarossa, Mussolini and many Nazi aides were left in a nervous
state. In his diaries Goebbels made fun of such “cowards.”
As we now know, the British got wind of Barbarossa through their
reading of German signals traffic via their captured (in Poland) Enigma
Machine and Ultra deciphering program at Bletchley Park. Not wishing
in any way to reveal that they had this machine as well as the
remarkable breaking of the code that allowed the reading of top-secret
General Staff orders, the British nevertheless discreetly “leaked” to
Soviet intelligence only bits of what they carefully chose from the
closely guarded information, lest it be known that the British had such
a system. (Not even the ubiquitous Soviet agents in Britain, it seems,
were able to penetrate the premises where Engima and Ultra were
secretly ensconced.) Among these pieces of information, as we saw,
were details of German planning for the invasion of the USSR.
Yet Stalin apparently remained unpersuaded by the British
information, the secret source of which he did not, of course, know. He
calculated that London was merely trying to break up the Soviet–
German romance and get the USSR embroiled in war, which, among
other things, would have corresponded to the long-held, anti-Soviet
sentiments of Prime Minister Churchill. Nor did some informed
warnings by certain Red Army commanders in spring and summer 1941
impress Stalin, for in these early times he tended to mistrust his
generals. He had brutally purged many of them in previous years, from
1937 onward; he continued to badger and threaten them. As we saw,
even the warnings of his top spy posted in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, who
predicted within days the exact date of the German attack, did not
convince Stalin that a Nazi double cross was in the making.
At his post in Japan, Sorge, in fact, was abandoned and left
defenseless by Stalin when the Japanese government learned of his
espionage activities, for which he was executed in Tokyo in late 1941
when no attempt was made by the Soviets to get him out of Japan.
(Sorge had also tipped off Stalin on Japanese planning for the Pearl
Harbor attack—a bit of information that Stalin did not share with
Washington.) Shortly before this, Sorge had informed Moscow that
Ribbentrop was trying to get the Japanese to break their neutrality
treaty with the USSR that had been signed in spring 1941. (His yeoman
service to the Boss was left mainly to the annals of history, although he
was given posthumous recognition in the Brezhnev period of the
1970s.)
In articles appearing in the States-side Russian weekly Panorama in
the late 1990s, Russian military historian Vladimir Lyulechnik
demonstrates by references to archival documents how Stalin
considered without reservation an eventual war with Germany to be
“inevitable.” Stalin perceived that a short period of collaboration with
Germany would delay the inevitable conflict while permitting Soviet
Russia to further build up its own offensive and defensive military
forces, a process that dramatically accelerated at this time. So
Lyulechnik claims.
Meanwhile, the allegation in old-style Soviet propaganda (still
encountered today in Russia and in many Western history texts) that
Stalin had seized the Baltic states and made other territorial
annexations in 1939–40 to create a “buffer” against a near-term
German invasion of Russia is not borne out by the facts, Lyulechnik
continues. His view is shared by a few Western-based historians
(Raack, Tolstoy, Topitsch, and Suvorov, among others) and a number
of contemporary Russian historians (such as Bobylev, Nevezhin, and
Radzinsky).
Lyulechnik, like some other latter-day authors, notes that Stalin
ordered no systematic, thoroughgoing defense measures to be
undertaken in those territories that he had seized in 1940 bordering
German-held territory to the west. If defense rather than offense was on
Stalin’s mind, wouldn’t he have ordered defensive preparations along
this new line 300 miles west of the former Soviet frontier? these
authors ask.
Moreover, the notion of delaying a German invasion as the motive
for these annexations is canceled out by the fact that Stalin, by virtue of
his seizures of the western lands, succeeded in further endangering the
USSR by moving Soviet borders nearer to those of German-occupied
Europe. The Germans could then proceed, as they did, to mobilize
along that extended, largely unprotected front. Still, the “buffer”
argument, accepted uncritically, continues to be dominant in standard
American world history textbooks and many books on World War II
(for further discussion of this point, see chapter 5).
Like Lyulechnik, former Soviet artillery and GRU officer Viktor
Suvorov (nom-de-plume of Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun), as
mentioned earlier, author of a half dozen insider books on the Soviet
intelligence and the military, maintains in his 1992 book, Ice-Breaker,
that Stalin in effect forced Hitler’s hand in making war against the
USSR in 1941. The Germans, he says, concurring with a few other
observers, adopted a policy of preventive war simply to defend
themselves against an eventual, perhaps even imminent Soviet attack
on them. They apparently had foreknowledge of this Soviet plan. In any
case, this was the official pretext proffered by the Germans, and Hitler
personally, just after the June 22 invasion in the declaration from
Berlin that followed the opening of hostilities. At one point Stalin in
late 1941 cursed in retrospect Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, co-
signer with Molotov of the Nazi–Soviet agreements in August 1939,
calling him a “scoundrel” (podlets).
According to Suvorov, German worries about a Russian attack were
borne out by the fact not only of Stalin’s several threatening territorial
acquisitions on the German eastern flank. This may be ascertained as
well from other information that Suvorov gleaned from Soviet
published sources. Moreover, Suvorov reasoned that by 1941 Stalin had
perceived that the German position of strength gained in Nazi-occupied
Central, Eastern, and Western Europe and the possible, even likely
German acquisition of the British Isles constituted a dire threat to
Soviet security. German expansion in Africa and the Middle East not to
mention Norway likewise was threatening to Moscow because it could
be seen as an undisguised attempt to outflank the Soviets’ own
ambitions to secure warm-water egress to the south (Iran, Persian Gulf,
India, etc.).
As alleged by Suvorov, Lyulechnik, and a few other authors, by
summer 1941 Stalin began actively to plan an offensive war against
Germany. He calculated that to sit and wait for a German attack and,
therefore, to wage only defensive war would mean, among other things,
losing hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers as POWs, for many
could be expected to defect to the Germans if the Soviets fought merely
defensively. (As a matter of fact, over a million did defect in any case.)
Another Russian military historian (see chapters 5 and 8), Pavel
Bobylev of the Institute for Military History attached to the RF
Ministry of Defense, criticizes Stalin in a 2000 article for not taking the
allegedly planned offensive indicated as being his long-term option in
the relevant documents.
Two French authors, I. A. Dugas and F. Y. Cheron, cited by
Lyulechnik in the weekly Russian paper Panorama, likewise insist that
Stalin calculated that an offensive strike against Germany would be the
most feasible option for Soviet Russia for military as well as
sociopolitical reasons. It would jive with the long-standing Marxist-
Leninist-Comintern formula of exporting “proletarian revolution” on
the tips of bayonets. In its plan Germany was to be a principal target as
the bridge to the rest of Europe.
In November 1940, these several authors point out, Moscow, via
Stalin’s right-hand emissary to Berlin, Molotov, was backing Berlin
into a corner by making extravagant territorial demands—as, for
example, against Rumania, a mutually recognized German satellite—
and by making seizures of Lithuanian territory in violation of Soviet–
German agreements while continuing to complain about German ties to
Finland. Together with Soviet pretensions of control over the Black and
Baltic Seas, Berlin perceived the emergence of “Soviet provocation.”
This was bound sooner or later to escalate into an armed confrontation
between the two states as they jockeyed for position in the Balkans. In
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer quotes Hitler as
saying at that time: “Stalin is clever and cunning. He demands more
and more. He’s a cold-blooded blackmailer.” As for Hitler, Lyulechnik
writes (Panorama, June 21–27, 1995): “Stalin was convinced that the
German leader would not risk waging war on two fronts. Therefore,
Stalin decided to act aggressively against his former ally, Germany.”
Lyulechnik, like Suvorov, finds the proof for his offensist
interpretation in the altered Soviet military doctrine worked out in
1939–40. In the new doctrine are several revisions of the former,
largely defensist doctrine; the new amendments, he claims, all point in
the direction of waging offensive war. Above all, the new doctrine
detailed secret plans for rapid deployment of offensive Soviet air,
ground, and naval forces to be hurled against Germany as well as plans
for “carrying out military exercises to prepare Soviet forces to wage
such offensives.” Suvorov, claims Lyulechnik, is essentially correct in
setting the date for the opening of the Soviet offensive on July 6, 1941.
And according to Joachim Hoffmann, the German historian cited by
Lyulechnik whose articles appear occasionally today in Russian
historical journals, Stalin, with offensist designs in mind, began
deploying on the Soviets’ Western Front 24,000 tanks, including the
new, long-barreled T-34 amphibious “Stalin tank”; 23,245 aircraft; and
148,000 vehicles and mine layers, 3,710 of which were of late design.
In agreement with other researchers of the “revisionist” school,
Lyulechnik concludes that the facts show that Stalin made his pact with
Hitler on August 23, 1939, in order to unleash war in Europe. In fact, in
Poland on September 17, 1939, he had in essence taken part in the war
as a “full-fledged aggressor.” By November 1940 via Molotov in Berlin
he let it be known that he had no fear of Hitler. Confidentially, Stalin
considered a Soviet–German war to be an inevitability. He indicated
that he would take the initiative for starting the war into his own hands,
as stated in the military writings of the period. Moreover, he stressed
that under no conditions should war be allowed to be waged on Soviet
territory itself. This, in any case, would be precluded by the Soviets
taking the offensive via a surprise invasion, or “first strike” (pervyi
udar, or uprezhdayushchyi udar), against the enemy.
Disputing this view to an extent in his writings in the mid-1990s was
Yeltsin military adviser retired General Dmitri Volkogonov. He
insisted that no document had yet been found that definitively proved
Stalin planned such an offensive. To this Lyulechnik, like Suvorov, has
answered that on the contrary “such documentation does exist. It was
recently published, in fact,” he continues, “and is known under the
rubric, ‘On the Plan to Deploy the Strategic Forces of the Soviet in a
War Against Germany and Its Allies,’ found in reproduction in an
article by Yu. A. Gor’kov, published in the [Russian] journal Novaya i
Noveishaya Istoriya (New and Latest History), No. 4, 1993.”10 The
author writes that “in making his attack upon the Soviet Union, Hitler
had merely outsmarted Stalin by anticipating the latter’s near-term
plans.”
Lyulechnik contends that Stalin, in any case, was not entirely taken
by surprise by the Nazi invasion:

He expected Soviet forces to be thrown back in the initial


phase, if such an attack were first made by the Wehrmacht.
It seems that Stalin himself was prepared to give up territory
under such circumstances—at least, for several weeks. When
the Germans actually did attack and Soviet forces were
driven back so disastrously far, Soviet military planners
were stunned. Stalin, however, did not panic [as alleged by
Khrushchev and others].

Stalin quickly rallied and began over time to rely on his professional
military so that Soviet Russia eventually could apply that same
offensive strategy against the Germans. This they did by 1942–43 in the
Battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, and beyond.
By 1944–45, all parts of the Soviet offensive military doctrine and
strategy were being fully applied against Hitler and his allies. Together
with this, the global messianism of Marxist-Leninist doctrine was
beginning to manifest itself. Former Soviet Foreign Intelligence
Deputy Chief Sudoplatov notes, significantly, in his book Special
Tasks, how Stalin sought nothing less than

world domination. Although originally this concept was


ideological in nature, it acquired the dimensions of
Realpolitik. This possibility arose for the Soviet Union only
after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed. In the Secret
protocols the Soviet Union’s geopolitical interests and
natural desires for the enlargement of its frontiers were for
the first time formally accepted by one of the leading powers
of the world.11

By 1941, Lyulechnik contends, Soviet Russia possessed


overwhelming military superiority. The Red Army had seized forward
positions in Eastern Europe from which it could jump off in waging an
offensive war against Germany. By spring, political and military
preparations of the Red Army were nearing completion. Yet in June the
Soviets still were not ready to see through their offensist plans, the
writer alleges. Hitler had gotten the jump on them.

TENTATIVE CONCLUSIONS
How had Stalin managed to be caught off-guard so ignominiously by
Operation Barbarossa? From what has so far come to light from the
partially opened archives in Moscow, it is clear that it was a case of
Stalin’s own offensive strategy blinding him to the Germans’
corresponding offensive plans. Ironically, the Soviet-German offensive
strategy had been jointly developed in the proto-blitzkrieg war games
played out on the Russian steppe in the presence of Red Army and
German officers from the Weimar Republic in the 1920s up to 1933.
This was when the German General Staff sent representatives—
Guderian, Manstein, Keitel, Brauchitsch, Model, Horn, et al.—to Soviet
Russia in the years and months preceding Barbarossa for waging
offensive war (see chapter 3). The offensive strategy, ironically, had
been the brainchild of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and his
associates, whom Stalin had purged in 1937–38 and who had previously
been participants in the Soviet–German military collaboration of the
1920s.
There is, incidentally, documentation for the possibility that
Tukhachevsky actually was involved in a germinating plot to do away
with Stalin. At the same time there were many, utterly ridiculous
trumped-up charges made against the marshal at the purge trial in 1937.
One of these was that he was “Trotskyite”; another, that he was
collaborating with the Germans. Some researchers question the veracity
of the claim made by certain authors that Stalin had been swayed by
outright disinformation concocted about the “officers’ plot” and handed
over to the Soviet dictator by the Germans. Their purpose, it is said,
was to mislead Stalin into decapitating the Red Army. But Stalin, new
evidence indicates, had his own dossier for incriminating the
professional soldiers, whom he considered plotters or at the very least
dangerous rivals.
Indeed, the German generals’ familiarity with and appreciation of
the talents of their Soviet counterparts of the 1920s indirectly
contributed to Hitler’s perception of an enfeebled, “decapitated” Red
Army due to the bloody repressions of those top Soviet officers that
had taken place ten years later in 1937–39. Three out of fifty-four
marshals were bloodily purged. Similarly liquidated were thirteen of
fifteen Red Army commanders, eight out of eight fleet admirals, fifty
of the fifty-seven corps commanders, and so on. Some of the best Red
Army military brains were purged, including all eleven vice
commissars of defense. A total of 43,000 officers were liquidated. This
left inexperienced “lieutenants” in charge. Two years later the Soviets’
debacle in the early, disastrous phase of their ‘Winter War’ against
Finland merely confirmed Hitler’s impressions of a paper-tiger Red
Army. British intelligence got the same impression, which dovetailed
with London’s apparent disinterest in collective-security arrangements
with such a weakened power as Soviet Russia.
In Moscow in spring 1941, Zhukov and Timoshenko, respectively
chief of the General Staff and commissar of defense, urged Stalin to
sharply boost preparedness on the Western Front and to take other
measures kak vozmozhno skoreye, or “as soon as . . . .” Zhukov, as
Lyulechnik has noted, even called for a preemptive strike against the
Wehrmacht (see chapter 7). He continued to urge a counteroffensive or
all-out offensive strategy that became the theme of Stalin’s secret
speech to the graduating cadets in May 1941.
In the opening weeks of the “Great Fatherland War,” Stalin would
issue urgent orders to commanders to wage counteroffensives or at very
least “partial counteroffensives.” And he called for the arrests of a
number of frontline commanders, many of whom were in due course
tried and shot on Stalin’s orders. These included such officers as his
commander of the entire Western Front, General Dmitri G. Pavlov, and
his chief of staff, General Vladimir E. Klimovskikh, together with his
signals and artillery commanders. The commander-in-chief of the
Fourth Army, Andrei A. Korobskov, likewise was shot, as were the
commanders of an aviation division on the Western Front and of the
Kiev Military District Air Force.
In addition to ordering the immediate execution of officers or men
who did not follow orders, retreated, or worst of all indicated that they
wished to defect to the enemy, Stalin was brutal about Red Army men
who became POWs. A special order was issued that read: “All service
personnel taken prisoner are declared outside the law while their
families are subject to punishment.” Lieutenant Yakov Djugashvili,
Stalin’s eldest son, became one such POW in the war. This infuriated
his father, who disowned him. The son finally committed suicide, it is
said, in a German POW camp by electrocuting himself on a wired fence
in the compound. “I don’t know if I could face my father,” he said to
his captors during a recorded interrogation in 1941: “I’m ashamed to be
alive.”
Stalin’s occasional erratic behavior in this period anticipated Hitler’s
in the concluding phase of the war in Europe. At that time the German
dictator sometimes gave frantic orders that were unrealistic to the
frontline commanders ordered to carry them out. During this initial
period in Moscow, Stalin did not assume the post of supreme
commander-in-chief, although he quickly ordered the formation of a
combat High Command Headquarters, or “Stavka.” Stalin’s self-
appointment to the post of CINC came later in the year 1941.
As to his later, vainglorious rank of “generalissimus,” Stalin did not
appropriate that supreme title for himself until the end of the war in
1945. General Alexei V. Suvorov (1730–1800) was the latest previous
holder of this highest rank, awarded to him in 1799, the year before his
death. Besides Suvorov there were only three other holders of this title
in Russia.
In conclusion to this chapter concerning June 1941, mention should be
made of a most ironic order jointly issued by the Council of People’s
Commissars and the Communist Party Central Committee to the Red
Air Force on June 19, 1941, just three days prior to the German attack.
Signed by Chairman (Premier) and General Secretary Josef Stalin and
classified top secret, it commanded that all military aircraft and
hangars were to be painted in summer camouflage. The deadline given
for completion of this task was July 30. A month too late....

NOTES
1 Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov, Special Tasks: The
Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness—A Soviet Spymaster (Boston: Little,
Brown and Co., 1994), pp. 134–35. Sudoplatov notes that “we were in a
state of alert [vis-à-vis Germany] from November 1940.” Other
documented information from other researchers confirms this
statement. Cf. M. I. Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina
Sovetskyi Soyuz i Bor’ba za Yevropu 1939–1941 (Moscow: Veche,
2000), p. 495.

2 Sergo Beriya, Moi Otets Lavrentii Beriya (Moscow: Sovremennik,


1994), p. 167ff.

3 One of the most recent offensist arguments concerning Stalin’s and


the Red Army’s pre-June 22, 1941, military policies and actions may be
found in Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina, pp. 370–414. The
Russian historian’s arguments are summarized here in the conclusions
in chapter 8.

4 Viktor Suvorov, in Samoubiistvo Zachem Gitler Napal na Sovetskyi


Soyuz? (Suicide: Why Did Hitler Attack the Soviet Union?) (Moscow:
Act, 2000), analyzes Hitler’s “suicidally” faulty reasoning in taking on
such a formidable foe as the Soviet Union. He and his General Staff
underestimated the fact of the Soviets’ huge army, increasingly modern
equipment, and space to withdraw and to take up new defense positions
against an advancing Wehrmacht, whose lines of supply were
overstretched, whose depth of manpower was far less than that of the
Soviets, whose soldiers were ill-clothed for the Russian winter, and so
on. Moreover, German military intelligence on the Soviets was
obviously faulty. Chief of the German General Staff Halder wrote
pessimistically in his diary only two months following the German
invasion that the German cause seemed lost: “Russia, a colossus that
deliberately prepared for war, was underestimated by us.... When the
war started, we had 200 divisions against us.... Now, on August 11,
1941, after the bloody losses they have suffered, we estimate the
number of [Red Army] divisions is 360. Even if we smash a dozen of
these, the Russians will organize another dozen” (quoted in Edvard
Radzinsky, Stalin [New York: Doubleday Publishing Co., 1996], p.
479).

5 The unlikelihood of Hitler erring so profoundly in attacking a


country of Russia’s exceptional size and military strength, strength at
the very least in depth of reserves and its military-industrial complex,
new weapons coming on line, and so forth, seems also to have
impressed Stalin. This point is made in a new review of Soviet military
strategy—General—Major V. A. Zolotarev, ed., Istoriya Voyennoi
Strategii Rossii (Moscow: Institute of Military History, Ministry of
Defense of the Russian Federation, 2000), p. 286, on which page, too,
the statistics in the sentences to follow may be found.

6 See Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina, whose appendixes


provide exhaustive tables of the data for Red Army weapons
deployments by years—models of tanks, infantry vehicles, planes, and
so on—per military districts on the Western Front for the years 1940–
41. It is a picture of steady, sharply increasing Red Army preparations
for fighting a war. It appears that the leadership in Moscow was assured
by the military that these preparations would be completed by mid-July
1941.

7 A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2 (Moscow:


Mezhdunarodniy Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), p. 416.

8 Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2, pp. 315–22. Senator Harry


Truman was quoted in The New York Times in mid-1941 (The Topeka
Daily Capital published his remarks on June 23, 1941) with the
statement that he hoped both the German and the Russian armies would
kill as many of each other as possible. If one side is winning, he said,
we should help the other side, and vice versa. In a personal letter to me,
the retired ex-president in Independence, Mo., denied ever having seen
such a quotation let alone having said any such things himself. See
Albert L. Weeks, The Other Side of Coexistence: An Analysis of
Russian Foreign Policy (New York: Pitman, 1970), p. 94. The quotation
was often reproduced in the Soviet Union during and after the war. It
still appears occasionally today (e.g., in Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi
Shans Stalina, p. 509; and in Robert Ivanov, Stalin i Soyuzniki 1941–
1945 [Smolensk: Rusich, 2000], p. 143).

9 Such contemporary writers more or less of this persuasion include


Joachim Hoffmann, R. C. Raack, Ernst Topitsch, Pavel Bobylev, Viktor
Suvorov (Rezun), Aleksandr Nekrich, Robert Conquest, and Robert C.
Tucker, among several others. The late Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov was
also of this persuasion.

10 This is evidently a reference to Doc. 473 reproduced in Yakovlev,


1941 god. Dokumenty, pp. 215–20, under the title “Memorandum of the
USSR People’s Commissar of Defense and Chief of the General Staff
to Chairman of the Council of Ministers J. V. Stalin on Considerations
of the Plan for Strategic Deployment of the Armed Forces of the Soviet
Union in Case of War with Germany and Its Allies,” May 15,1941.
Among other things, the memorandum, signed by Timoshenko and
Zhukov, proposes that the Soviet side attack the “deeply mobilized”
German Army first before it is able to initiate an attack against the Red
Army, which the memorandum adds, is the obvious German plan. For
discussion of “Considerations,” see chapter 5.
See also Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2, pp. 389–90.

11 Sudoplatov and Sudoplatov, Special Tasks, p. 102. “Once again,”


Sudoplatov, former deputy director (after March 1939) of the NKVD
First (Foreign Intelligence) Directorate, observes, “only military
strength and domination of the countries on our borders could ensure us
a superpower role” (emphasis added). Note that the NKVD officer does
not cite “buffer” security as a motivation for the enlargement of Soviet
borders in 1940.
8

Conclusions

The tragic start of the war [on June 22, 1941] for the Red
Army is one of the most “encrypted” pages in our history.

—Pavel N. Bobylev, military historian

The [Red Army] term “active defense” [aktivnaya oborona]


need not cause any confusion. It signifies a combination of
both defensive and offensive operations.... Since [in archive
documents] it is clear the Red Army would be the initiator of
military actions, this term, above all, conceals the fact of the
Red Army’s plans to conduct offensive operations aimed at
pinning down [skovyvat’] the enemy.

—M. I. Mel’tyukhov, military historian

In examining the controversy revolving about Stalin’s plans for war in


the months, weeks, and days before the German attack on June 22,
1941, it was necessary in the above chapters to sketch in the
ideological, diplomatic, and military background before the
momentous and tragic events of that summer. Stalin’s behavior and
other relevant events on and just after the day of the invasion also shed
light on the dictator’s attitude toward the coming, “inevitable” war.
In chapter 5, I canvassed the various lines of the controversy over
Stalin’s war plans as they are argued in current Russian military
literature. For this purpose I focused on two of the latest, most
comprehensive as well as recent of such writings, that of military
historians Pavel N. Bobylev and Mikhail I. Mel’tyukhov. I included in
this discussion documentary evidence as reproduced in another
relatively new work, the two-volume The Year 1941. Documents (1941
god. Dokumenty), a compilation of documents edited by Aleksandr N.
Yakovlev. Defensist arguments likewise are presented in the preceding
chapters. Here I will review and critique this research and analysis
based on the most recent findings of Russian historians. These include
new writings by Russian historians that Western scholars to date have
not discussed.

THE MAY 15 MEMORANDUM AND OTHER WAR-


PLANNING DOCUMENTS
At the nub of the offensist–defensist issue is Stalin’s acceptance or
nonacceptance of the Timoshenko–Zhukov memorandum of May 15,
“Considerations on the Plan for Strategic Deployment of the Armed
Forces of the Soviet Union in Case of War with Germany and Its
Allies.” This is the strategic plan that was overtly offensist. The
generals even recommend a preemptive attack against the German
Army poised along Russia’s western frontier. Given the extreme
paucity of such crucial documents and because of the high source of
this document, much attention is legitimately focused on the May 15
memorandum as well as Stalin’s remarks on May 5. (Of course, other
documents, canvassed in the preceding chapters, need to be considered
as well.)
In his controversial interview with a historian, who at that time
followed the official Soviet line on military history, Marshal Zhukov
stated flatly that Stalin had “categorically” rejected the outright
offensist “Considerations” submitted to him on May 15, 1941. Yet, in
writing about his talks with two senior military officers in 1991, the
same interviewer, N. A. Svetlishin, notes that neither Zhukov nor
Marshal M. Vasilievsky had made any reference to the idea of a
preemptive attack. Yet this was embodied in the May 15 memorandum.
As a result of what they call a “subterfuge,” some Russian historians
today attribute the silence about Red Army offensism to an intentional
cover up by these officers. Any notion that the Red Army had plans for
waging preemptive war would run up against the Kremlin Wall that
banned all such speculation or evidence along these lines. Too, the
Zhukov/Vasilievsky memoirs were surfacing at the time of Brezhnev—
a period in which the positive memory of Stalin enjoyed a comeback
compared with earlier years and, importantly, in which defensism was
touted during Brezhnev’s detente as the hallmark of declaratory Soviet
military policy.
“Forgetfulness” on the part of Zhukov and Vasilievsky concerning
the crucial May 15 memorandum, according to historian Bobylev, can
be explained by the fact, as he writes, that “any discussion of Red Army
plans for making preemptive attacks was a theme forbidden by Soviet
authorities” —forbidden then and in the later postwar period.
Furthermore, discussion of such secret planning obviously was crucial
in the military-security sense of guarding secrecy at the time of the
documents. Disclosure at that time and later likewise would be
politically damaging to a regime whose propaganda—at the time of
Stalin and under his successors—insisted that it had only peaceful
intentions toward any country and especially toward Germany as of
1939–40 and early 1941.
For this reason, Bobylev continues, the military writer Viktor A.
Anfilov, who followed the official line and who knew of the May 15
memorandum, obviously “wrote nothing about it in 1965 [when he first
learned of its existence] but only referred to it later when perforce it
arose in discussion [i.e., after 1991].” That was the year another
researcher, Yu. A. Gor’kov, discovered the document in the archives
and disclosed its contents, for which a number of Russian historians
now express their gratitude to him. They express thanks despite the
fact, as they have noted, that Gor’kov did not draw the conclusions
from his discovery that other, latter-day historians thought he should
have.
The same “oversight” concerning the document is true of Svetlishin,
insists Bobylev: “[Svetlishin] only referred to the May 15
Memorandum by 1992,” although he was informed of it by Zhukov
back in 1965.1 Zhukov had thus tacitly revealed to Svetlishin that Stalin
had actually read the two staff officers’ preemptive attack
memorandum! That Stalin did not read the memorandum has been the
assumption of some Western historians (Gorodetsky, Glantz, et al.).
Thus, if Stalin “rejected it,” he must have known of it. But, alas, there
is no proof that he rejected it.2 The notion that Stalin rejected the views
contained in the memorandum, as one Russian historian puts it, is
“premature.” Some Russian historians question whether, indeed,
Zhukov is to be believed in his allegation that Stalin did not approve
the plan.
Given the absence of any Stalin document following up the
“Considerations” that clearly indicates either approval or rejection by
Stalin, some historians now take the view that, nevertheless, several
documented clues, both preceding and following the offense-oriented
“Considerations,” indicate what Stalin’s intentions were. They claim
that there is hard evidence Stalin had given his approval to the thinking
embodied in the offensist memorandum. They further cite this passage
from the memorandum: “In order to fulfill the demands [of the thrust
of this memorandum], it is necessary at a favorable time to carry out
the following measures without which it would be impossible to make a
surprise strike against the foe either from the air or on the ground.”3
Likewise, hadn’t Stalin, on May 5, touted offensive war against
Germany (see chapter 5)? Moreover, the Russian historians allege the
following:
After Stalin’s May 5, 1941, speech and remarks to the military
school graduates containing an offensist thrust, the military gave
indications of preparing the forces to take the offensive on Red
Army initiative. They were emboldened, in fact, to make such
proposals from Stalin’s own verbal leads in his May 5 statements.
They point, moreover, to several documents, among which are not
only the May 15 memorandum but various Red Army General
Staff orders and local orders issued at the military district level
along the Western Front aimed at readying the troops for eventual
war. The thrust of these orders, including those to district
commanders, is, they allege, offensist. The pertinent sentence
from the May 15 memorandum reads:

In order to prevent [an initial attack by the Wehrmacht]


while also destroying the German Army, [we] consider
it necessary that under no conditions should the
initiative for starting hostilities be given to the German
Army. It is necessary to preempt the enemy in deploying
for attack and to attack the German Army at the moment
when it is at the stage of deploying for attack and is as
yet unable to organize its front and coordinate all of its
force.4

Too, they cite, for example, the General Staff’s March 11, 1941,
“Refined [Utochennyi] Plan,” first published in Voyennyi
Istoricheskyi Zhurnal, no. 2 (1992). In this plan are laid out
undeniably offensist, preemptive tactics. Historian Gor’kov gives
evidence for the fact that the offensist thrust of the contents of the
May 15 plan was circulated via operational orders sent out to all
military district commands in the period May 5—14—that is, even
before the political leadership had officially endorsed the plan on
May 15.5 The distribution of these orders further confirms, as
Bobylev asserts, the existence of the May 15 document and of its
instrumentation throughout the western military districts. In any
case, few if any Russian historians now deny its authenticity. Any
lingering doubts are found largely in works published abroad.
They note, moreover, that the phrase “active defense,” frequently
used in such orders, contains the hidden meaning of waging
offensive war and seizing the initiative from the enemy
(specifically named in the documents as Germany and its
European/Axis allies) at or before the very opening of hostilities.
At the very least, it suggests applying a combination of offensist
and defensist tactics, and especially the former, in the initial stage
of war.
Moreover, as indicated, such researchers point to the thrust of the
indoctrination of soldiers, especially after Stalin’s May 5
statements. This indoctrination was of a strongly worded offensist
nature. Some researchers, like historian V A. Nevezhin, allege that
such a thrust in the indoctrination would have been impossible to
assert if Stalin, in fact, did not approve of offensism in the way
soldiers were being prepared “morally” for combat.
They further point out that soon after hearing and digesting the
news of the Wehrmacht’s attacks against the Red Army along the
Western Front on June 22, 1941, Stalin, significantly, immediately
ordered his commanders to take offensive rather than defensive
actions. Any commander who took defensive actions could be, and
was in many cases, shot. This, they say, is one more clue to
Stalin’s pre–June 22 thinking about the coming war with
Germany. A true combination of a defensive and offensive
doctrine would have dictated, at the very least, a defensive posture
in order to initially absorb an enemy’s attack. Defense of second-
echelon forces might soon be followed by an offensive
counterattack by those forces. Instead, the Red Army’s offensive-
designed, frontline forces were deployed directly facing the enemy
as though no defensive action would have been necessary.
In his radio address to the nation on July 3, 1941, moreover, Stalin
noted that the Wehrmacht had been “completely mobilized, that it
had thrust 170 divisions into combat against the USSR.” The
latter’s Red Army, he said, “were in complete readiness for war
and were merely awaiting the signal to act since its armies were
still in the process of mobilizing and deploying forces to the
western front.”6 Bobylev notes that in this speech Stalin declared
significantly that “Fascist Germany had unexpectedly and
treacherously broken the [Nazi–Soviet] nonaggression pact.... It is
understandable that our peace-loving country, not wishing to take
upon itself the initiative of destroying the pact, was not able itself
to resort to such treachery.” To which Bobylev comments: “This
remark by Stalin amounted to a reaction to the Hitlerite
politicians’ excuse that their attack on the USSR was a preventive
one. Yet there could have been other reasons for Stalin’s remark.
In any case, [the German attack] obviously had nothing to do with
any defensive [or offensive] measures undertaken by the USSR
and its armies. Its meaning was to explain why the USSR itself had
not preempted Germany’s attack” (emphasis added).7
In March 1938, over three years before June 22, as he examined
the opening phase of war, then Chief of the General Staff General
Boris M. Shaposhnikov anticipated a prolonged warning period. It
would last anywhere from sixteen to thirty days, depending on
local circumstances in a given sector, whether south, center, or
north, before the enemy could launch an attack. During this
rewing-up period the Soviets presumably would be alerted to an
impending attack. In addition the Red Army would have ten days
in order to shift its forces depending on the direction (sector) of
the enemy attack along the Western Front. It could then
concentrate the troops at the appropriate place along the front. If
the attack came in the southwest sector in Ukraine facing
Rumania, he said, the warning period could extend from twenty-
two to twenty-six days or even from thirty-two to thirty-seven
days. This would provide time enough for the Soviet side not only
to prepare for an attack “but to launch an offensive and destroy the
enemy.”8
Before June 22, it was staunchly maintained by leading staff
officers (namely, Timoshenko, Meretskov, and Vatutin, among
others) that the southern sector would constitute the principal
direction of the German attack out of the three main, possible axes
in the west—north, central, or south. The generals added that this
was the direction, too, best suited to the Red Army for launching
offensive war. Such was the professional military’s view, says
Bobylev, that was all but “foisted” on Stalin. The latter, he insists,
cannot be entirely blamed for the disaster as Stalin has been in
Russian and foreign accounts up to now. Yet it is also clear Stalin
had convinced himself that Hitler had given the highest priority to
attacking the Ukraine, the Soviet breadbasket and location of
many of the USSR’s most crucial resources and military-industrial
assets. Bobylev further notes that, significantly, absolutely no
defensive measures were undertaken in this sector. This strongly
suggests that the Red Army leadership harbored only offensive-
oriented plans against the Germans.
When in February 1941 Zhukov assumed leadership of the General
Staff, the above plans were reaffirmed. Zhukov displayed no
reservations about them. In February–March 1941, according to
Svetlishin’s book on Zhukov, the operational plans were reworked,
Zhukov claiming, disingenuously, according to Bobylev, that
Stalin had seriously erred in expecting the direction of an enemy
attack to the southwest. Yet, Bobylev observes, Zhukov himself
had just assumed the new post of commander-in-chief of the Kiev
Military District (namely, in the south). The “Refined
[Utochnennyi] Plan” of March 11, 1941, drawn up on Zhukov’s
orders, established the priority of the southern direction in Red
Army planning. This resulted in neglect of sectors to the north.
Yet it was to the north that the Wehrmacht concentrated the brunt
of its attacking forces in summer 1941, thus outsmarting the
Soviet military leadership.
At the basis of this errant planning in which Zhukov participated,
according to Bobylev, was the September 18, 1940, General Staff
“formula,” which was to apply to the years 1940–41. It called for
waging offensive war instead of setting out concerted plans for
developing strategic defense (strategicheskaya oborona). The
basic sector expected for an enemy attack was designated as the
southwestern. Mel’-tyukhov in general agrees with the above
analysis.9
Historian Bobylev analyzes the significance of the actions taken
by the Red Army after the respective May 5 and May 15 Stalin
statements and Red Army strategic plan, especially following the
latter “Considerations” memorandum. He notes that pursuant to
the plan, more than 800,000 men were called into military service
to fill the ranks of the divisions positioned on the western frontier.
Four armies in the interior of the country (from the Caucasus and
from western Siberia)—the 16th, 19th, 21st, and 22nd—were
shifted to that front (to the Dnieper and Dvina Rivers), the 16th
and 19th being moved precisely to a sector specified in the May
plan. Three additional armies were to be so moved to the Western
Front. These and other similar deployments and actions likewise
related to the May 15 plan—for example, moving command points
right up to the front—were ordered to be carried out in absolute
secrecy.
Bobylev notes that, moreover, there is no evidence that any such
moves were made in response to warnings of German preparations
for war. Thus, the post-May 15 moves by the Red Army signify
the decision that was made, he writes, to prepare the Red Army
“for launching a preemptive strike, which was considered above
and beyond any considerations of an offensive that might come
from the enemy side.” This thesis, he continues, “conforms to the
General Staff orders sent to the front’s military districts on June
21, 1941. In these orders the troops were tasked ‘not to give in to
any provocative actions that could cause huge complications.’
Obviously, by the calculations of the General Staff, Germany was
not yet ready to attack the USSR, and . . . it would not be ready
until much later.”
Furthermore, as Bobylev writes, the Western Front districts
were given orders not to strengthen their defenses. Such
preparations, reads a directive from General Zhukov, dated June
10, would only “provoke” the Germans prematurely. Yet, at the
same time, the commander of the Carpathian Military District,
General M. P. Kirponos, was ordered to “advance to the frontier.”
Writing in his memoirs, Zhukov claimed that this was followed by
a countermanding order directly from Stalin to halt such forward
deployments of Red Army troops. Zhukov, who oversaw from
Kiev the key sector of the Western Front at that time, added that if
Stalin’s order had not been followed, he would have been
“arrested” and, therefore, have “drunk tea with Beria.”
Bobylev claims that Zhukov’s testimony is totally
unconvincing. “Other memoirists confirm,” he writes, “that no
such telegram [of June 10] came from Stalin. On the contrary, it is
more accurate to say that the forward deployment was carried out
on his [Zhukov’s] own initiative, that so-called defensive
measures had nothing to do with it.”10
Bobylev refers to the conference held in Stalin’s Kremlin office on
May 24 within the context of the meeting’s agenda that, as he
argues, was the plan to preempt the Wehrmacht. Present at the
secret conference besides Stalin and Molotov were the
commanders of all five western military districts—Kiev,
Leningrad, Carpathian, Odessa, and Baltic—plus members of the
military councils, the commanding officers of the corresponding
Red Air Force units attached to these districts, and General Staff
and other staff officers including Timoshenko, Zhukov, Vatutin,
and P. F. Zhigarev, commander-in-chief of the Red Air Force.
According to historian Yu. A. Gorkov, using archive documents,
the conference went over the “mission of the western districts in
the light of the operational war plan [of May 15] under current
strategic conditions.” Another historian, V. D. Danilov, reasons
that the conference directly took up the questions “related to
preparing a preemptive strike.”11
On his part Bobylev adds that “if the conference was devoted
only to matters of defense, why wasn’t there a single indication
following it that strengthening defenses was a top priority?” Nor,
the Ministry of Defense institute historian notes, are there any
living witnesses to the conference and its aftermath who could
throw any light on this question. “On the contrary,” he writes, “it
seems that the secretive attitude [toward the conference] indicates
that the subject of the meeting was the preemptive strike, that any
leakage of this discussion had to be prevented lest it compromised
all the preparations that were being made for it.”

1940–41 RED ARMY WAR GAMES


CONTROVERSY
A similar puzzle concerns contradictory interpretations of the war
games fought between the “Blues” (West) and the “Reds” (East or
Soviet) in late 1940 and early 1941. An analysis of the games might
throw light on the question of what strategy underlay the Red Army
vis-à-vis Germany. However, it is not unusual for post mortems of such
exercises, conducted by whatever country’s armed forces, to provoke
differences in the conclusions drawn within the military and civilian
leadership after the games have been analyzed. Clouding the Soviet
pre–June 22 picture is the lack of full documentation of the postmortem
appraisals of and conclusions drawn from the two sets of games, played
out in late winter 1940–41. Some Russian historians believe that the
obfuscation, amid the absence of relevant top-secret documents, has
been intentional on the part of certain postwar military memoirists.
The ongoing discussions about the outcomes and inferences drawn
from the games in the USSR in early 1941, especially those based on
some new archival documentation, might contribute some knowledge
to the overarching controversy concerning the main lines of Soviet war
planning on the eve of the German attack. What did the games prove to
the civilian and military leadership in the USSR about offensive versus
defensive war?
What conclusions did the top Soviet military planners draw from
them? In his book The Russian Way of War, Richard Harrison, using
new archive documents, notes that the first of two major war games
before summer 1941 were played out along part of the Soviet Western
Front in winter.12 The organizers of the games imagined that the enemy
would open hostilities to the northeast on July 15, 1941. Zhukov, in
command of the “Blue” attacking forces, numbering fifty-nine infantry
divisions plus 3,516 tanks and 3,336 aircraft, sought to defeat the
Soviet covering armies. The attackers were to advance by mid-August
to the line of Riga-Dvinsk-Baranovichi. However, as it was played out,
the game did not anticipate an “enemy” attack along the Brest-
Baranovichi axis, which—ironically—actually occurred in real war six
months later.
Zhukov was opposed by Pavlov’s “Red” defending Northwest Front
armies (the 1st, 9th, 14th, 19th, and 27th plus a cavalry-mechanized
group). These numbered 8,811 tanks and 5,652 aircraft. To the south of
the Pripyat Marshes, Colonel-General Grigori M. Shtern commanded
the Southwestern Front. Given the preponderance of force on the
defending “Red,” Soviet side, the outcome of this game was assured.
Zhukov was forced to retreat to his fortified position by August 1. The
attack on Leningrad was also defeated. Meanwhile, Zhukov was to
await reinforcements to resume his offensive with the aim of achieving
his objectives by September 5.
Here, as noted by Harrison, the official report of the games becomes
clouded. General Matvei V. Zakharov merely stated that the attacking
“Westerners” won the operation. He disclosed that the games
“abounded in dramatic episodes for the eastern side,” upon which he
did not elaborate. As it turned out with cruel irony, this situation was
true of the actual one in June 1941. Zhukov repeats the phrase about
“episodes” nearly verbatim but fails to provide any details of the
game’s actual conduct. He does not explain how it happened that the
“Red” defenders ran into difficulties.
In the second round of games also fought in late winter 1940–41, two
Western (“Blue”) Fronts attacked “Red” forces south of the Pripyat
Marshes. The attack was opened with forces almost as large as those of
the preceding game. This time Zhukov defended against the forces
attacking from the west. As with the earlier game, the preponderance in
tanks on the Soviet side was overwhelming compared with the number
with the attacking forces, this time led by General Lieutenant Nikolai
A. Kuznetsov. These disproportions perhaps meant “loading the dice”
in the exercise for the “Reds.”
According to the contrived scenario, the Westerners attacked on
“August 2, 1941,” after completing their concentration and deployment
along the frontier. As the games were played out, by August 8 the
attacking “Blue” forces had been thrown back to a line running
southwest from Brest along the Vistula River to the Carpathian
Mountains at Grybow. Yet, significantly, they had made major
advances and trapped Soviet forces around L’vov
At this point, the game’s umpires assigned the two sides their
respective, new strategic tasks. By these orders, the southern salient
was to renew its offensive in the direction of Ternopol’ and Proskurov.
The Southeastern Front’s center would continue to defend along the
Dunajec. These and other orders by the umpires, Harrison points out,
assigned the Soviet side extreme, “breathtaking” tasks to rout the
enemy. For instance, the attacker’s goal—surrounding Moscow—was
to be attained by a fictitious October 16,1941. This, as it turned out
with cruel irony, was the very date that the German forces were
actually to stand at the gates of Moscow later that year. However, the
final report in the documents on the outcome of the games—and thus of
the enemy’s renewed drive to the east—is disappointingly skimpy. In
fact, the ultimate result of the games is left hanging in the air. Although
the available literature in general on both exercises is sparse, notes
Harrison, “given the scenario laid down . . . as well as the limited
capacities of the two attacking ‘western’ commanders, it is unlikely
that the Soviets were defeated.” But the dice were loaded....
Whatever the true outcome of the second game, Harrison writes,
“there is no doubt that Stalin was highly dissatisfied with the overall
results . . . for which he harshly criticized [General Dmitri G.] Pavlov,”
who had commanded the defenders in the first game and who
apparently had been defeated. (Yet Stalin left Pavlov at his post as
commander of the Western Front in late spring 1941. But he saw to his
execution following the June 22, 1941, debacle.) As a result of the
outcome of the first game, major transfers and demotions were made
by Stalin. Zhukov, significantly, replaced Meretskov as chief of the
General Staff. Many other shufflings took place within the High
Command. These changes, Harrison claims, may have further
weakened the Red Army as it approached its moment of truth in real
time in summer 1941.
What the shuffling of the generals may have indicated in terms of
Stalin’s putative preference for an offensive war strategy is unclear.
Yet the promotion of Zhukov would seem to fit Stalin’s offensist war
plans. The Soviet leader may have positively evaluated Zhukov’s
performance in the first round of games. However, the scant
information about them that is available to historians leaves this
assumption moot.
In retrospect, the author concludes, Stalin had every right to be
disappointed with his army’s overall performance in the games. It
seems that whether the “armies” were playing the role of attacker or of
defender in the exercises, their performance left a good deal to be
desired. How the games may have chastened Stalin in laying his own
real plans for war—whether purely defensive, purely offensive, or a
combination of both—can only be surmised. In any case, it seems clear
that Stalin was of a mind to postpone hostilities with Germany for as
long as possible—at least until mid-1941, late summer, and perhaps
into 1942.

ANFILOV’S “SEVEN LESSONS” FROM THE WAR


One of the most articulate, semiofficial voices among today’s Russian
military historians is the veteran writer Viktor A. Anfilov.13 In his
latest as in his earlier works, this writer has followed the traditional,
pre-1995 line on Stalin’s war plans. On the fifty-fifth anniversary of the
Soviet capture of Berlin in 1945, Anfilov laid out what he called
“Seven Lessons” learned from the Great Fatherland War. The way he
expresses his lessons is revealing.
By way of implied as well as direct criticism of policies established
before June 22,1941, Anfilov retrospectively discloses in his April–
May 2000 article what the contemporary Russian military now chooses
to describe as the “fundamental mistakes” made at that time. So doing,
Anfilov’s lessons also communicate, indirectly, the current
semiofficial view on the nature of the miscalculations made by Stalin
but also by the Red Army General Staff in spring 1941.
According to the writer, these boil down to one crucial error: the
failure to adopt defensive measures because of what he terms mistaken
offensist “ideological” pressures and Stalin’s penchant for making
unwise decisions concerning the deployment of Red Army units along
the western frontier on the eve of the German attack. (This is a subtle
way of saying that Stalin deployed his offensive-designed forces in
defenseless fashion directly opposite the German forces without
providing them defensive means—the very claim made by the new
Russian historians.) In examining these lessons, as presented by one of
Russia’s leading, conventional military historians, we can see where
the semiofficial consensus rests today on the problems explored in the
foregoing chapters.
Lesson number 1, according to Anfilov, concerns the lack of
“coordination between the military and civilian leadership on the eve of
the German attack.” The tasks, even the basic strategy, lacked
substance, he writes. When the attack materialized, Stalin at first
ordered that immediately to counterattack would “produce political
complications.” The problem was aggravated by the fact, Anfilov
continues, that only part of the forces deployed in the newly acquired
western territories was sufficiently prepared for combat; nor were the
forward echelons sufficiently covered (another indication of their
offensive posture). Stalin reasoned that these territories had to be
heavily occupied with Red Army troops lest their native populations
considered the Soviet regime and forces there to be merely temporary.
They would thus readily help surrender valuable terrain there to the
enemy. As a result, this calculation put large numbers of ill-prepared
troops at the mercy of the invaders. In other words, institutionalized,
“organic unity” and coordination between the professional soldiers and
the civilian leadership, alleges Anfilov, would have prevented such
miscalculations. The last word rested, unfortunately, with the civilian
leadership—meaning the single autocrat, Stalin.
The second lesson concerns miscalculations by the Red Army High
Command itself. Here Anfilov, a writer previously reticent in
criticizing the professional military, lays out new ground, perhaps in
response to the “new historiography” of the post-1991 “generation” of
Russian historians. The military, he continues, had failed to make
accurate predictions and thus failed to make adequate preparations for
an anticipated enemy attack.
Anfilov quotes Zhukov to the effect that “in practice the
particularities of waging contemporary war were not taken into
account.... The error consisted in thinking that the timetables for
carrying out concentrations of troops on both sides were the same.”14
But this was not the case, Zhukov has alleged. In the “formal” sense the
importance of making defensive preparations was not denied, Anfilov
writes. Yet “the essence of the matter did not revolve about the
recognition or non-recognition of the importance of defensive measures
but rather in the practical conclusions to be made concerning defense.”
If defense (read: defensist) considerations were uppermost, then
measures should have been taken to bolster defenses with the
maintenance of constant readiness (to meet an enemy surprise attack)
plus a more concerted, concealed preparation and combat readiness for
this. This is a revealing admission on the part of Viktor Anfilov. “The
lesson seen in today’s context,” he says, “is that together with a
powerful military-industrial base, it is necessary to enhance the real
combat capability of the armed forces [whose readiness in 1941 lagged
behind the defense potential of the Soviet state].”
Moreover, the first-echelon forces deployed along the western
frontier were not carefully prepared for waging “defensist
[oboronitel’niye] operations” —an understatement, surely. They were
prepared for this neither theoretically nor in practice, Anfilov
complains. Had defensist plans been worked up (another admission that
Red Army offensism was the strategy’s salient feature), the disaster
might have been avoided. The error about defense was compounded by
the fact, he continues, that the assumption was made that the enemy
attack could be repulsed in a short period of time. After that, it was
assumed, offensives could be then waged.
Moreover, the idea that war could be rapidly carried onto the
enemy’s own territory was an erroneous idea under the then-prevailing
conditions. “All this,” he writes, “had a deleterious effect” on the Red
Army’s ability to stop the Wehrmacht’s onslaught. So saying, Anfilov
seems tacitly to admit that the Red Army’s offensist military thought
contributed to the debacle. Although he does not make this accusation
per se—and he has been criticized by other contemporary Russian
historians for shying away in his past writings from drawing such a
conclusion—he does infer that more attention needed to be paid than
was in 1941 to the imperatives and timeworn principles of defense. By
implication, then, the first two of Anfilov’s “lessons” seem to signify
that the offensism of Soviet military doctrine and operational art
contributed to the catastrophe of June 1941 and its aftermath.

SUMMATION
In reviewing all the discussion, especially the most recent writings
based on newly opened archives, I have drawn the following inferences
—some of which are firm, others, tentative. First, it is clear that on the
eve of the German attack of June 22, 1941, the Red Army was designed
more for waging offensive rather than defensive war. This strikes a
contrast to the usual Soviet propaganda that stressed the seemingly
defensist notion that “if attacked, the Soviet Union would repulse the
aggressor.” Moreover, the ideology, as we saw, stressed offensism
within the fundamental ideological context of destroying capitalism or,
as Lenin put it, “taking it by the scruff of the neck” when the Soviets
were strong enough to do so. Many other ideologically tinged
documents dating from the pre–June 1941 period point in the same
direction.
The documents also show that the Soviets intended to carry the war
as soon as possible into the territory of the enemy. Perhaps this policy
could be construed as a not unusual, even conventional way of thinking
about the “next war.” For what country would wish to see an enemy
occupy its territory and wreak destruction upon it? Yet the offensist
thrust of such declarations cannot be ignored, especially when it is
recalled, in addition to the other facts, that Red Army field manuals and
its operational art strongly emphasized waging offensive war on its
part. This has been recognized, as we saw, by post-Communist Russian
historians, including such high officials as former Russian Federation
Deputy Defense Minister Andrei A. Kokoshin.
Second, it may be objected that it is not entirely clear what was
meant by offensive war, Soviet style. On one hand, the military
documents available to date, as we saw, speak of waging
counteroffensives or counterattacks as soon as possible after an enemy
attack has been launched. Some historians claim that Red Army tactics
called for a combination of offense and defense. On the other hand, the
Timoshenko–Zhukov memorandum to Stalin of May 15, 1941, goes so
far as to commend a surprise attack, or “strike” (udar), even before the
enemy can launch one. This strike was to be executed at a time when
the enemy would be in the early process of preparing—deploying and
concentrating troops—for attack. This adds up to the Soviet tactic of
preemption.
Yet the paucity of any further elaboration of this bold offensism,
smacking as it does of preventive war, plus the lack of any previous
Red Army General Staff recommendations for waging outright
preventive war launched from the Soviet side, suggests two possible
additional hypotheses: (1) the memorandum was simply an “anomaly”
or (2) such deep secrecy surrounded it, for obvious reasons, as well as
the follow-up measures to be taken to prepare to preempt the
Wehrmacht, that researchers have not yet been able to produce the
evidence in undeniable black and white. Meanwhile, some Russian
historians suspect that documents are being withheld. Perhaps (3)
Stalin and the military did not have time to flesh out their offensist
plans and grossly underestimated German willingness or readiness to
launch full-scale war by late June 1941.
Nevertheless, what the researchers have produced is a pattern of Red
Army deployments and concentration of troops along the Soviet western
frontier in spring 1941 that strongly suggests that the General Staff and
Stalin were planning eventually to get the preemptive jump on the
Wehrmacht. The fact that in addition to Russian historians a number of
informed ex–Red Army or security officers make this allegation cannot
be ignored. As it turned out, of course, the Germans got the jump on the
Soviets.
Here it needs to be said in the strongest of terms that even if such an
outright Red Army offensist or preemptive war hypothesis were ever
proved in absolutely certain terms, the Germans’ official pretext for
Barbarossa—namely, that the Soviets were planning to attack them,
which was declared by Hitler himself in his first war speech after June
22, 1941—surely would not thereby be justified. Hitler’s pretext
remains a pretext, not a legitimate excuse for attacking the USSR.
Hitler had planned his invasion back in mid-1940; he stuck to his plan
thereafter no matter what. Furthermore, earlier Hitler writings in any
case anticipate the conquest of Soviet Russia.
After June 1940 Hitler had set at least two dates for the assault, dates
that were later advanced for technical reasons. Too, there is strong
evidence for the fact that no matter how the Soviet–German
negotiations had gone in Berlin 1940—and they went badly, angering
the German side—Hitler was going to go ahead with his large-scale war
against the Soviet Union. So, searching for evidence that Hitler was
somehow “driven” to attack the Soviet Union appears to be misguided.
In this regard, why, it might be asked, don’t German documents from
that prewar June period clearly show any concern in Berlin for Soviet
offensist war planning? Or was German military intelligence so poor,
as it certainly was, that it did not detect any such planning? Hence, the
silence about a planned Soviet preemptive attack (that is, before Hitler
used it as a pretext).
Third, it is significant and worth recognizing that a number of “new”
Russian historians are opting for the offensist interpretation as to
Stalin’s and the Red Army General Staff’s war planning on the eve of
Barbarossa. In the meantime, it is unhelpful to assume, as some
Western writers have, that these Russian historians take the positions
they do, like the notions proffered so vehemently by émigré Viktor
Suvorov, because they blindly hate Stalin or for some other reasons
unrelated to the facts and documents that they have collected. Note that
some of the historians of the offensist persuasion are connected with
the Russian Ministry of Defense. Others (unlike the much despised
Suvorov) show pro-Soviet tendencies in their interpretations of events.
Yet they hew to the offensist thesis concerning Stalin war planning.15
It behooves Western specialists and observers to pay attention to the
Russian historians’ latest findings as well as to their interpretations of
their findings. The Russian historians say that they will keep on
pressing the authorities for more archives to be opened because, they
insist, additional top-secret information from the period of 1939–41
continues to be kept concealed. Specialists in the West should keep a
closer watch than they have to date to see objectively what the Russian
archivists and historians discover in the future as more documents, it is
to be hoped, become accessible to them.

NOTES
The first epigraph is from P. N. Bobylev, “Tochku v Diskussii Stavit’
Rano. K voprosu o planirovanii v general’nom shtabe RKKA
vozmozhnoi voiny s Germaniyei v 1940–1941 godakh” (“Calling an
Early Halt to the Discussion about the Problem in the General Staff of
the RKKA on Planning a Possible War with Germany from the Years
1940–1941”), Otechesvennaya Istoriya, no. 1 (2000), p. 59.
The second is from M. I. Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina
Sovetskyi Soyuz i Bor’ba za Yevropu 1939–1941 (Stalin’s Lost
Opportunity: The Soviet Union and the Battle for Europe 1939–1941)
(Moscow: Veche, 2000), pp. 387–88. The author is a historian and
research fellow on the staff of the All-Russian Scientific-Research
Institute for Documents and Archive Affairs (VNIIDAD), founded in
Moscow in the Soviet period in 1966. Its foundation had been inspired
by the public demand for archive materials following the Twentieth
Party Congress to which the then Soviet leader, Nikita S. Khrushchev,
revealed some of the crimes committed under the Stalin regime.
VNIIDAD’s present director is Mikhail V. Larin.
1 Bobylev, “Tochku v Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” p. 44. Bobylev notes
the irony of Marshal Zhukov’s parting words in his last series of
memoirs, published in 1992, in which he says that it was still necessary
for historians of the war to find the “real reasons” for the Soviet
failures at the beginning of hostilities in June 1941. “Historians it
seems,” observes Bobylev, “were put in difficult straits under Stalin.
They were prevented from knowing the true contents of the many
prewar meetings that took place between the military and Stalin, and,
as the result of such meetings, the most crucial decisions were
formulated on preparing the country for a possible near-term war with
Germany.”

2 Gabriel Gorodetsky, who in his writings follows a strictly defensist


line on Stalin’s war planning, apparently concurs that Stalin did see the
memorandum of May 15. But he insists, without evidence, that Stalin
“rejected [it] outright as it jeopardized his attempts to bring about a
political solution.” Yet how could such jeopardy occur, one might ask,
if the contents of the memorandum were kept top secret? Also, the
Soviets had intentionally leaked, selectively, parts of Stalin’s overtly
offensist May 5 statements. Gorodetsky adds that, in any case, the
Timoshenko-Zhukov memorandum had no expansionist motivations,
that its aim was strictly “limited” to preempting a German blow. Yet
Soviet military orders rarely if ever carried “ideological” baggage,
being confined to strictly military operations. Bobylev notes that the
same military officers who drafted the May 15 document conferred
with the Leader in Stalin’s office the day before. No stenographic
record of the contents of these discussions has yet turned up. But
Bobylev believes that it is highly unlikely that the contents of the
memorandum, which was issued the very next day, were not discussed
or that the memorandum would have been issued if it did not conform
to Stalin’s own thinking. Gorodetsky claims that Red Army military
deployments and other actions taken after May 1941 displayed a purely
“defensive disposition” (Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German
Invasion of Russia [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999], p. 241).
However, most latter-day Russian military historians with access to the
latest archive documents strongly disagree with this notion. They
criticize that author for his defensist reconstruction of the actual
measures taken by Stalin and the Red Army prior to June 22, which
they describe as being of an offensist nature.
3 A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2 (Moscow:
Mezhdunarodnyi Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), p. 219.

4 Yakovlev, 1941 god. Dokumenty, vol. 2, p. 216.

5 See Voyenno-Istoricheskyi Zhurnal, no. 2 (1996), p. 2.

6 Bobylev, “Tochku v Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” pp. 45, 53. Bobylev


adds that Stalin was correct in placing the blame on the military for
failing to carry out in time the assigned deployments to the western
districts. Yet, in reading the issued orders, when dates are given for
completion of mobilizations and deployments, the assigned dates fall
after June 22. By implication, it seems Stalin resorted to diplomatic
stalling tactics vis-à-vis the Germans for this reason. He evidently
surmised that his armies were not yet ready to wage war against
Germany. Bobylev further notes that on four previous occasions the
Wehrmacht was able to preempt its enemies strategically in the field of
battle but that this fact seems to have made no impression on the Red
Army General Staff: “The absence of such awareness of a foreign
state’s past war experience led to the tragedy of 1941” (“Tochku v
Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” p. 46). Mel’tyukhov notes that Western
scholar Gorodetsky errs in describing the March 11 plan as reflecting a
“defensist strategy” (Mif “Ledokola” Nakanunye voiny [Moscow:
Progress Akademii, 1995], p. 284). The plan reflected just the opposite,
Mel’tyukhov insists (Upushchennyi Shans Stalina, p. 386).

7 Russian historians V. K. Volkov and L. Ya. Gibianskyi note in their


new edited book, Eastern Europe between Hitler and Stalin, that no
German sources ever mentioned putative Soviet military offensist
indications before June 22,1941 (Vostochnaya Yevropa mezhdu
Gitlerom I Stalinym 1939–1941 gg [Moscow: Izdatel’stvo “Indrik,”
1999], pp. 262–63). In his diary, Goebbels indicated that Stalin
remained “firm” in his commitment of solidarity with Berlin stemming
from the Nazi-Soviet agreements of 1939–40.

8 Bobylev, “Tochku v Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” p. 46.

9 Mel’tyukhov, Upushchennyi Shans Stalina, pp. 370–414, in the


section entitled ”Soviet Military Planning 1940–1941.”

10 Bobylev, “Tochku v Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” pp. 51–52.

11 Segodnya (September 28, 1993), quoted in Bobylev, “Tochku v


Diskussii Stavit’ Rano,” p. 53.

12 Richard W. Harrison, The Russian Way of War: Operational Art,


1904–1940 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas Press, 2001), pp.
265–69. German research indicated that Stalin was testing newfound
theories of offensist operations by means of these games. See Ernst
Topitsch, Stalin’s War: A Radical New Theory on the Origins of the
Second World War (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), p. 71.

13 See Voyennoye Obozreniye (April 28–May 11, 2000), p. 2. Similar


“lessons” are drawn in an article, titled “Uroki Velikoi Otechestvennoi
Voini i voyennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii,” in Voyennaya Mysl’
(Military Thought), no. 3 (May–June 2000), pp. 34–41. The authors,
General Ye. A. Karpov and Colonels G. A. Mokhorov and V. A. Rodin,
maintain that neglect of defense and defensive preparations because of
the accent on an offensive strategy that bore a “propagandistic
character” led to the disaster on and after June 22, 1941. A second
article (Makhmut A. Gareyev, “Voyennaya nauka i voyennoye
iskusstvo v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine,” Voyennaya Mysl’, no. 3
[May–June 2000], pp. 42–49), in the same number of the General Staff
journal, makes similar points. This writer complains that the “idealized
cult of an offensive war doctrine” underlay the necessity of making ill-
prepared, disastrous retreats. For these errors, the author, a former
member of the General Staff after the late 1970s, specifically blames
both the Supreme Commander and the General Staff.

14 A former Red Army colonel, Grigori A. Tokaev, who headed the


Aerodynamics Laboratory of the Moscow Military Air Academy before
the war, a senior officer in Soviet military administration in Germany,
discloses in his book, Stalin Means War (London: George Weidenfeld
and Nicolson Ltd., 1951), that it was commonly known among top Red
Army officers that Stalin and the General Staff harbored offensist war
plans against Germany. However, he says, Stalin had not expected a
German attack before “early August,” though German and Soviet
schedules were similar in expecting war in 1941. The colonel also
claims that Stalin’s urging to Churchill in 1942 of a premature opening
of a second front in Europe was a ploy aimed at weakening the Western
Allies—Stalin still holding to his long-held notion of fratricidal war
between the capitalist powers. If true, one wonders how Stalin could
have put such a low price on Lend-Lease aid, which obviously would
not have been forthcoming, as it had been since late 1941, with any
such severe weakening of the “antifascist coalition” of the USSR and
the Western Allies that was formed soon after the German attack on the
Soviet Union.

15 One such historian, M. I. Mel’tyukhov, goes so far as to maintain


that if all of Europe had been sovietized, it would have provided much-
needed “stability” to the region. Mel’tyukhov, as we saw, documents
Stalin’s offensive plans in his book Stalin’s Lost Opportunity,
published in 2000. He is a historian connected with one of Russia’s
oldest archive/research institutes, VNIIDAD, on Cherkasskyi Square in
Moscow.
APPENDIX 1

Stalin’s Third Speech, May 5, 1941


“Permit me to make a correction. A peace policy keeps our nation at
peace. A peace policy is a good thing. At one time or another we have
followed a line based on defense. Up to now we have not re-equipped
our army nor supplied it with modern weapons.
“But now that our army is undergoing reconstruction and we have
become strong, it is necessary to shift from defense to offense.
“In providing the defense of our country, we must act in an offensist
[nastupatel’nym] way. Our military policy must change from defense to
waging offensive actions. We must endow our indoctrination, our
propaganda and agitation, and our press with an offensist spirit. The
Red Army is a modern army—a modern army that is an offensist army
[nastupatel’-naya armiya].”

NOTE
This is from A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty (Moscow:
Mezhdunarodniy Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), p. 162, my translation.
The document’s editor notes that pursuant to Stalin’s speech before the
graduates the Main Administration for Political Propaganda in the Red
Army was ordered in the light of Stalin’s remarks to reconstruct its
indoctrination along the lines of Stalin’s speeches. The new orders
reproduced quotes from Lenin in which he emphasized the need for
waging offensives. The editor further notes, following Stalin’s speeches
to the graduates, there were changes in administrators throughout the
whole system of propaganda and indoctrination in which such
“hawkish” officials as A. A. Zhdanov and A. S. Shcherbakov were
promoted in this area of party work. Stalin made Zhdanov his chief
assistant in the Secretariat in charge of civilian and military
propaganda. This was followed by a number of militant secret and
public speeches by Zhdanov and Shcherbakov extolling offensism.
APPENDIX 2

May 15, 1941, Memorandum


The following is an excerpt from the memorandum of the people’s
commissar of defense and chief of the General Staff of the Red Army
to the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, J. V. Stalin,
“Considerations of the Plan for the Strategic Deployment of the Armed
Forces of the Soviet Union in Case of War with Germany and Its
Allies,” May 15, 1941:
“At the present time, according to data from the Intelligence
Administration of the Red Army, Germany has deployed nearly 230
infantry divisions, 22 tank divisions, 20 motorized infantry divisions, 8
air divisions, and 4 cavalry divisions all totaling 284 divisions....
“It is estimated that given the present political situation in today’s
Germany, in the event of an attack on the USSR, Germany is able to
deploy against us 137 infantry divisions, 19 tank divisions, 15
motorized infantry divisions, 4 cavalry divisions, and 5 paratroop
divisions all totaling 180 divisions....
“Taking into account the fact that at the present time Germany can
maintain its army in mobilized readiness together with its deployed
forces in the rear, it has the capability of preempting us in deploying
and mounting a surprise strike.
“In order to prevent this from happening while destroying the
German army, I consider it necessary that in no way should we yield
the initiative to the German command.
“We should preempt [upredit’] the enemy by deploying and
attacking the German Army at the very moment when it has reached the
stage of deploying [in order to wage an attack] but has not yet
organized itself into a front or concentrated all units of its armed forces
along the front....
“In order that the above may be carried out in the way indicated, it is
necessary in timely fashion to take the following measures without
which it will not be possible to deliver a surprise strike against the
enemy both from the air as well as on the ground. [There follows a list
of measures relating to the locations along the Western Front for
deploying Red Army infantry, tank, etc., divisions and the number of
days or weeks the various measures will take to execute the Red
Army’s ”surprise strike.“]
[signed] “USSR People’s Commissar of Defense, S. Timoshenko
Chief of the General Staff of the RKKA, G. Zhukov”

NOTE
This is from A. N. Yakovlev, ed., 1941 god. Dokumenty (Moscow:
Mezhdunarodnyi Fond “Demokratiya,” 1998), pp. 215–20, my
translation.
APPENDIX 3

Stalin’s Speech to the Politburo, August


19, 1939
The following is J. V. Stalin’s secret speech to the Politburo of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, August 19, 1939:
“The question of war or peace has entered a critical phase for us. If
we conclude a mutual assistance treaty with France and Great Britain,
Germany will back off of Poland and seek a ‘modus vivendi’ with the
Western Powers. War would thus be prevented but future events could
take a serious turn for the USSR. If we accept Germany’s proposal to
conclude with it a nonaggression pact, Germany will then attack Poland
and Europe will be thrown into serious acts of unrest and disorder.
Under these circumstances we will have many chances of remaining
out of the conflict while being able to hope for our own timely entrance
into war.
“The experience of the past 20 years shows that in peacetime it is
impossible to maintain a Communist movement throughout Europe that
would be strong enough so that a Bolshevik party could seize power. A
dictatorship by this party becomes possible only as the result of a big
war. We are making our choice and it is clear. We must accept the
German proposal and politely send the Anglo-French delegations back
home. The first advantage we will get will be the destruction of Poland
up to the very approaches to Warsaw, including Ukrainian Galicia.
“Germany has given us full leeway in the Baltic Countries and has no
objection to returning Bessarabia to the USSR. Germany is also
prepared to yield on giving us a sphere of influence in Rumania,
Bulgaria, and Hungary. The question of Yugoslavia still remains
open.... At the same time we must anticipate what will ensue from the
destruction of Germany in war as well as from a German victory. If it is
destroyed, the sovietization of Germany follows inevitably and a
Communist government will be established. We must not forget that a
sovietized Germany would face great danger if such sovietization
occurred after the defeat of Germany in a short war. England and
France would be powerful enough to seize Berlin and destroy a Soviet
Germany. We would not be able to come to the aid of our Bolshevik
comrades in Germany.
“Therefore, our task consists in helping Germany wage war for as
long as possible with the aim in view that England and France would be
in no condition to defeat a sovietized Germany. While hewing to a
policy of neutrality and while waiting for its hour to come, the USSR
will lend aid to today’s Germany and supply it with raw materials and
foodstuffs. Of course, it follows that we will not allow such shipments
to jeopardize our economy or weaken our armed might.
“At the same time we must conduct active Communist propaganda
especially as directed at the Anglo-French bloc and primarily in France.
We must be prepared for the fact that in France in wartime the
Communist Party there must abandon legal activities and go
underground. We realize that such work will require an enormous
sacrifice in lives. However, we have no doubts about our French
comrades. Above all their task will be to break up and demoralize the
French army and police. If this preparatory work is completed in a
satisfactory way, the security of Soviet Germany is assured. This will
likewise ensure the sovietization of France.
“To realize these plans it is necessary that war last as long as
possible and that all efforts should be made, whether in Western
Europe or the Balkans, to see that this happens.
“Let us look now at the second possibility—namely, that Germany
becomes the victor. Some propose that this turn of events would
present us with a serious danger. There is some truth to this notion. But
it would be erroneous to believe that such a danger is as near and as
great as they assume. If Germany achieves victory in the war, it will
emerge from it in such a depleted state that to start a conflict with the
USSR will take at very least 10 years.
“Germany’s main task would then be to keep a watch on the defeated
England and France to prevent their restoration. On the other hand, a
victorious Germany would have at its disposal a large territory. Over
the course of many decades, Germany would be preoccupied with the
‘exploitation’ of these territories and establishing in them the German
order. Obviously, Germany would be too preoccupied to move against
us. There is still another factor that enhances our security. In the
defeated France, the French Communist Party would be very strong. A
Communist revolution would follow inevitably. We would exploit this
in order to come to the aid of France and win it over as an ally. Later
these peoples who fell under the “protection” of a victorious Germany
likewise would become our allies. We would have a large arena in
which to develop the world revolution.
“Comrades! It is in the interests of the USSR, the Land of the
Toilers, that war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-
French bloc. Everything must be done so that the war lasts as long as
possible in order that both sides become exhausted. Namely for this
reason we must agree to the pact proposed by Germany and use it so
that once this war is declared, it will last for a maximum amount of
time. We must step up our propaganda within the combatant-countries
so that they are prepared for that time when the war ends.”

NOTE
This is from the central collection of Historical Documents of the
former “Special Archive of the USSR,” Folder 7, Set 1, Doc. 1223. It is
reproduced from Dimitrov’s diary in T. S. Bushuyev, “Proklinaya—
Poprobuite Ponyat’” (“Curse It but Try to Understand”), review of two
books by Viktor Suvorov, Novyi Mir, no. 12 (1994), pp. 232–33.
APPENDIX 4

Russia’s New History Textbooks


In the introduction to this book, I referred to the Soviets’ Orwellian
Memory Hole. The distortions introduced into Soviet historiography,
including military history, have been so potent—and convincing—as to
mislead not only Soviet citizens but also Western observers, who, in
some cases, still rely on Soviet interpretations of major events. Such
distortions may crop up at any time and on any topic. Distinguishing
the chaff of lies from the wheat of truth is an ongoing task for all
students of Soviet history, especially in the West. That certainly
includes those who take an interest in Stalin’s policies from 1939 to
1941 as well as the other events and issues raised in this book within
the context of Stalin’s Grand Strategy.
When the Soviet regime collapsed in 1991, it became necessary to
begin thinking freely in new, un-Soviet ways. As to education, because
of Soviet-style Marxist-Leninist indoctrination and the party line in the
schools’ texts, it became necessary to write new history texts for both
the secondary (high) schools and institutions of higher learning in
Russia. Every topic of Soviet history—the former official ideology,
Soviet foreign relations, domestic policy, Red Army military doctrine
and strategy, Stalinism, the purges, the Nazi–Soviet pacts, the Winter
War against Finland, the causes of the Great Fatherland War,
everything, in fact, that happened in the preceding seventy-four years
of Soviet rule—henceforth had to be explained to students truthfully
without the Marxist-Leninist or propaganda glosses on the past.
Here is the background for these revolutionary changes in Russian
education and the way they impound, directly or indirectly, on various
topics and events covered in the present book. Educating children in the
old, pre-1917 way, Lenin had said, meant “cramming their heads full of
knowledge, 9/10ths of which was useless, 1/10th of which was
distorted.” Under communism, he continued, students are indoctrinated
in “socialism by its vanguard, the Communist Party [in order to raise] a
generation able to accomplish the final realization of communism.”
The “distortion” was thereupon updated and augmented by the
Communist rulers themselves. For over two generations under Lenin,
Stalin, and their successors, the teaching of Russian history and world
history was shaped—that is, deformed—to fit the mold of Marxist-
Leninist “science.” Teachers were ordered to serve as “transmission
belts” imparting to students “the idea of communism” and absolute
loyalty to the regime. They were to describe the world as an “arena” of
“inevitable” two-camp struggle between capitalism and socialism.
Teachers were trained to be purveyors of class hatred, proponents of
“class struggle” against “bourgeois enemies” at home and “capitalist-
imperialist states” abroad. They were, in effect, “engineers of human
souls.”
Soon other elements were added into Soviet education and
indoctrination of the masses, in and out of school. These methods
became totalitarian prototypes that were deliberately copied by the
Nazis (as Hitler himself admitted) as well as by other one-party
dictatorships then and now. One of these Soviet methods was the
promotion in education of the Lenin Cult, later adapted to Nazi
conditions as the “Leadership Principle” embodied in the person of
Adolf Hitler. Lenin and Stalin, as Hitler was later, were each depicted
for children and adults as a Vozhd’ (a Russian term equivalent to
Führer, Duce, Caudillo, et al.). He was a historically incomparable
“genius,” a role model who, “Christ-like,” delivered mankind into the
earthly paradise as depicted in the official ideology.
Concomitant with this is the notion of the Leader’s selfless sacrifice
for The Cause. This is found in tales of Lenin’s exile to Siberia and his
wounding in an attempted assassination in 1918. Both adapted to Nazi
propaganda in Germany, such as in Hitler’s incarceration in 1924 or his
wounding in the 1944 assassination attempt, together with, in both the
Soviet and Nazi cases, the taking of hostages and demonstrative
executions. All this was personified in the heroic, even lovable Leader.

SOVIET PROPAGANDA ECHOES IN THE WEST


That this Soviet propaganda could be—and was—echoed in the West is
seen in a number of distorted eulogies to Stalin that have appeared in
Stalin’s day in the American press. For instance, in former U.S.
Ambassador to the USSR Joseph E. Davies’ best-selling book (later
made into a Hollywood film), Mission to Moscow, Davies claims that
Stalin’s trumped-up show trials, the purging and execution of Old
Bolshevik leaders and of military officers in the Soviet Union in 1937–
38, was an instance in which “justice had indeed been.” Davies depicts
Stalin as a goodhearted reformer who only wanted peace and prosperity
for Soviet Russia, not war or world revolution.
Collier’s magazine, in December 1943, under the title “What Kind of
Country Is Russia Anyway?” told readers editorially that Russia is
“neither socialist nor Communist [but] a modified capitalist set-up
[advancing] toward something resembling our own and Great Britain’s
democracy.” Look magazine, with a readership in the millions, ran a
cover story with a band that read, “A Guy Named Joe.” Stalin, the story
said, is into “Arctic meteorology. Leatherstocking Tales, soap, and war
[and is] among the best dressed of the world leaders, making Churchill
in his siren suit look positively shabby.” Life magazine (March 29,
1943) described Stalin’s and Beria’s secret police/Gulag police
organization, the NKVD, as “a national police similar to the FBI.” For
that matter, the U.S. Office of War Information and U.S. Army
orientation materials regularly referred to the USSR as a “democracy”
(see introduction).
In his messages to Churchill, President Roosevelt himself referred to
Stalin in a jolly way as “Uncle Joe.” At same time near the time of his
death, FDR is reputed to have angrily observed to an aide: “Averell
[Harriman, U.S. emissary to and adviser on Russia] is right. We can’t
do business with Stalin.”1

PURGING SOVIETISMS
For Soviet youths to be true “comrades,” said the former Communist
Party indoctrinators and educators, they must be taught to merge their
wills into the “general will” of the mass, the community, as expressed
in microcosmic form in the school classroom. In such a rigid
curriculum there was no place for “bourgeois individualism” or for
open discussion. Individuum (individual) in Russian, in fact, became no
less a pejorative buzzword than a Soviet epithet like bourgeoise,
wrecker, cosmopolite, or hooligan.
Fortunately, with the demise of communist rule in Russia in 1991,
the country’s educational system has been steadily purged of all such
“Com-munazi” contents and methods. No longer do youths flock to
Octobrist and Komsomol youth organizations, those former junior
auxiliaries of the “paternal” Communist Party. Nor do boys and girls in
Russia any longer wear student uniforms with red neckerchiefs, flash
the stiff hooked-arm Lenin salute, or stand at rigid attention at their
desks when reciting. Nor do they squeal on members of their families
to authorities if mama and papa or brother and sister show anything
less than complete loyalty to the leader, the party, and the state.
All of these totalitarian methods were exported not only to Nazi- and
Fascist-ruled countries but to Sovietized nations and client-states
before and after World War II—in Eastern Europe, Cuba, Africa, the
Middle East, and Asia. More than one-third of all educational
institutions in today’s Russia are nonpublic—that is, not supported by
the government. In the latter “public” schools, education likewise looks
quite different from that in Soviet days, as do the textbooks that the
students read in such institutions. Russian students today are no longer
forced to read texts whose chapters are slanted according to partiinost’
ideology imbued with “class consciousness,” global struggle, and
adulation of the Leader, living or dead, or both dead and living.

NEW CONTENTS
Then, what are Tolya and Tatyana reading today as they do their
homework for their history classes? How do their education and
textbooks differ from those of Soviet days? What light do the new
books throw on topics discussed in this book? Two representative
textbooks well illustrate the sea change that has come over latter-day
Russian education. 2 They are written for tenth and eleventh graders in
the tuition-free, public-supported secondary schools as well as in some
private schools. They are recommended for voluntary adoption by the
Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian
Federation. Titled The World in the 20th Century and A History of
Russia, the books are accompanied by an “apparatus” (e.g., “Questions
for Discussion”) that is designed, state the authors, to stimulate free
discussion in the classroom. Indeed, the questions are mostly thought
provoking and well intended. Each chapter includes fragments of
primary source material, some of which would be edifying even for
some Soviet specialists in the West; tables of governmental
organization under the tsars and Soviets; and the post-1991 political
structure.
One of the pair of books includes a glossary, and both contain
chronologies and maps. The glossary is noteworthy for its
nonideological definitions in contrast to those found in the texts of the
Soviet period right up to 1991. The latter provide only “correct”
definitions designed for uncritical student consumption. These were
additionally boilerplated in the well-known “Political Dictionaries”
that provided strict, party-line definitions for civilians and soldiers.
The general topics for the domestic scene in Russia covered in both
books are predictable: the fall of Tsar Nicholas II and the short, nine-
month rule by the Provisional Government under Lvov and then
Kerensky; the seizure of power by Lenin’s handful of Bolsheviks; the
Soviet-inspired civil war and “War Communism”; the advent of
Stalin’s rule following Lenin’s death; the Five-Year Plans and
collectivization; the Gulag and Soviet genocide; the consolidation of
totalitarian rule under both Lenin and Stalin and their successors
through Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko; the
ambivalent Gorbachev period after 1985; and the attempted coup of
August 1991. Covered, finally, are the events marking the Yeltsin
presidency through 1996. All periods are treated in the main with
stunning candor, laced with primary-source documents.
In international relations, the topics are also predictable, including as
they do Lenin’s, Stalin’s, and their successors’ plans for subversive
world revolution; the interwar period; the Nazi–Soviet pact and its
consequent Soviet territorial expansion; World War II and the Great
Fatherland War; the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the U.S.–
USSR arms buildup and nuclear standoff; the Soviet-led invasion and
occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968; “détente” during Brezhnev’s
rule; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and so on.
All of these topics—with few exceptions—are treated no less
objectively than they are in many contemporary Western history texts.
As a matter of fact, as Westerners pore over the pages of these Russian
texts, they may be struck by the contrasts in content and cogency in
some cases between the Russian books and those used at equivalent
educational levels in the United States and perhaps elsewhere. That is,
the Russian books in many cases are much more candid and incisive,
as, for example, in their presentations of the minority coup aspect of
the “October Revolution”; Lenin’s and his colleagues’ wily,
conspiratorial methods; Soviet genocide; the Soviet-led, global
“ideological struggle,” which, it is intimated, helped unleash the Cold
War; Soviet “offensist” diplomacy and military strategy; and so on.
The Russian student draws, certainly, sharp conclusions from this
reading and discussion of the topics—inferences totally different from
those that the two preceding generations in Soviet Russia were obliged
to draw.
At the end of each chapter and elsewhere, the textbook authors
remind the students what the “lessons from history” might be. One of
the above books phrases it this way in the introduction:

The end of the 20th century once again confronts us with the
question of what roads of development our country should
take. Above all, we see that Russia exceeded the limits of
“revolution” of the type that does not lead to national
harmony but, rather, to catastrophe and the destruction of
human life. Those who forget the past are doomed to
repeating it over and over again.... We trust that this text will
provide a truthful way of thinking about the past while
helping everyone find ways of leading the country to true
greatness.3

In interviews with young high school–aged students I conducted


informally, it became clear that their reading of such post-Communist
texts has created a generational “time warp” of knowledge and
understanding about their own country and the world in comparison
with the awareness of previous generations of students. One senses that
today’s students have experienced shock and horror in learning so
much about the grimness and hypocrisy of the Soviet past. To a
foreigner—in this case, an American—a given Russian student, as he or
she discusses such historical events, communicates a sense of
embarrassment crossed with the resolve “never to let it happen again.”
At the same time, several of the teenaged students expressed a pent-up
pride in their country projected, as it were, into the future. Too, their
interest in pre-1917 Russian history, which in Soviet histories had been
routinely distorted by the Communists, and their involvement in
Russia’s millennium-old religious traditions are strongly characteristic
of today’s younger generation.

SOVIET-CLEANSED INTERNATIONAL
RELATIONS
Perhaps one of the most striking threads running through both
textbooks concerns the loss of democracy, civil liberties, and individual
freedom in Russia as a consequence of what one of the books terms the
“despotism” imposed by the Bolsheviks on Russians and other peoples
of the Soviet Union. On the international front, students are frankly
informed that when it was aimed at democratic countries abroad,

peaceful coexistence [as conceived by the Communists] was


a temporary set of relations with the “capitalist
encirclement.” The West had legitimate grounds for fearing
the export of revolution from the capital of the Soviet
Russia.... This gave much support to the view that
[Communist parties in other countries] were forces that were
hostile to the parliamentary system together with the
perception that these parties were “agents of Moscow.”

In its glossary, the above textbook provides students with the


following, ideology-free definition of parliamentarism: “It is a system
of governmental rule in which the functions of the legislative and
executive are strictly delimited, and in which the parliament plays the
leading role. In this system, the parliament is viewed as both subject
and object within the political struggle and is linked to traditional
democratic values existing in the country.”
Contrast this 1997 definition of political democracy with that found
in the 1988 encyclopedic dictionary titled Sovremenniye Soyedinenniye
Shtaty Ameriki (The Contemporary United States of America), edited by
six ideologists including, ironically, Russia’s sometime post-Soviet
prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov: “The most important aspect of the
American political system is its two-party system[, which is] an
instrument for retaining political domination by the monopolistic
bourgeoisie.” Or contrast it with this definition of Western democracy
made by Lenin, which cropped up in many textbooks in the Soviet
period: “Capital dominates and stifles everything [and] this they call
‘democracy.’”4
Today’s schools throughout Russia, their administrators and
teachers, enjoy broad freedom in the choice of textbooks. No longer are
they bound to adopt texts, as in the Soviet period, that were passed by
the censor or approved by a remote Ministry of Education in Moscow.
Moreover, free, outside reading by curious students of other books,
domestic and foreign, is very common. Open discussion in the
classroom is encouraged as seen in the “apparatus” of discussion
questions provided at the end of chapters in the history textbooks.
A new generation of Russian youth is being educated at an early age
to be freethinking individuals as they assimilate the main developments
of the twentieth century. This is perhaps one of the most, if not the
most, important consequences of Russia’s transition away from
Communism. It is a valuable preparation of that country’s future adults
for the new century and millennium.
NOTES
1 Quoted in Martin Walker, The Cold War: A History (New York:
Henry Holt and Co., 1993), p. 17.

2 See O. S. Soroko-Tsyupi, ed., Mir v XX veke, 2d ed. (Moscow:


Proveshcheniye, 1997), for tenth-eleventh grades, recommended by the
Russian Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian
Federation; and V. P. Ostrovskyi and A. I. Utkin, Istoriya Rossii XX
vek, 2d ed. (Moscow: Drofa, 1997), for eleventh grade, recommended
by the Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian
Federation.

3 Ostrovskyi and Utkin, Istoriya Rossii XX vek, p. 3.

4 V. I. Lenin, “Report to the Seventh Congress of Soviets” (1919), in


Albert L. Weeks, Soviet and Communist Quotations (New York:
Pergamon-Brassey’s Publishers, 1987), p. 84.
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PERIODICALS
Argumenty i Fakty
Journal of Contemporary History
Kommunist Vooruzhennikh Sil
Krasnaya Zvezda
Novaya Noveishaya Istoriya
Otechestvennaya Istoriya
Panorama
Pravda
Prepodavaniye Istorii v Shkolye
Reason
Rossiiskiye Vesti
SShaA Ekonomika Politika Ideologiya
Survey (U.K.)
Voennaya Mysl’
Voennyi Istoricheskyi Zhurnal
Voprosy Istorii

GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
Conspiracy and Aggression, vols. 1–8. Office of the U.S. Chief Counsel
of the Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1946.
Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939–1941. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department
of State, 1948.
Russian archive materials from, among other sources, the State Archive
of the Russian Federation, the Russian State Archive of Socio-
Political History, the Russian State Military Archive, the Russian
State Archive on the Economy, and the Center for the Collection of
Contemporary Documents.
Soviet Diplomacy and Negotiating Behavior, vol. 1. Committee on
Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, 96th Congress,
1979.
Soviet Political Agreements and Results. Staff study, Committee on the
Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 86th Congress, First Session, 1959.

VIDEO DOCUMENTARY
Stalin and Hitler: Dangerous Liaisons. Films for the Humanities and
Sciences, 3 vols. Author: Thibault d’ Oiron; producer: Jean-Francois
Delassus; research advisers: Stephanie Courtois (head), Patrick
Moreau, Alexandra Viatteau, Col. Paul Gau-jac, Arkadi Vaksberg,
Arseni Roginski, Helena Gusiantinskaya, and Suria Sadekova.
Princeton, 1999.
Index

Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
Afanas’iev, Yuri N.
Afghanistan
aircraft
Alksnis, Ya. I.
All-Russian Scientific-Research Institute for Documents and Archive Affairs (VNIIDAD).
See also Mel’tyukhov, M. I.
American Veterans Committee (AVC)
Anfilov, Viktor A.
Anglo-German Naval Agreement (1935)
Anglo-Soviet trade pact (1921)
anticolonialism
Archive of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee
archives: accessibility: and research into Stalin’s diplomacy toward Germany: on Stalin’s
post-Operation Barbarossa behavior; on Stalin’s war plans; on war games
Argumenty i Fakty
Armenia
articles
Asia
Astakhov, Georgi
Axis powers. See also Germany; Japan; Mussolini, Benito

Bagramyan, Ivan Kh.


Balkans
Baltic states: acquisition of; friendship treaties with; independence of
Barbarossa, Operation: blame for; books about; and defensist arguments; Hitler’s reasons
for launching; and offensist arguments; run-up to; secrecy of; Stalin’s responses to;
Stalin’s self-deceptions about; time and location of; warnings of; weaponry used in;
withdrawal during
Barthou, Louis
Basis Nord
Benes, E.
Beria, Lavrenti
Beria, Sergo L.
Beriyev, G. M.
Berlin
Bessarabia
Bessonov, Sergei
Bismarck, Otto
Black Shirts. See Mussolini, Benito
Bletchley Park. See Enigma Machine (Ultra)
blitzkrieg warfare. See deep battle operations
Blomberg, W.
Blunt, Anthony
Blyukher, V. K.
Bobylev, Pavel N.: analysis of war documents; on blame for Operation Barbarossa;
criticism of Stalin; on offensism
Bokarev, Yu. P.
Bolshevism
Bonvetsch, B.
Borodin, Mikhail
Boundary and Friendship Treaty, German-Soviet (1939)
Brauchitsch, Walther
Brest-Litovsk Treaty (1918)
Brezhnev, L. I.
Brown Shirts. See Nazi party
Budyenny, S. M.
buffer zone
Bukovina
Bulgaria
Burgess, Guy
Bushuyev, T. S.
Byelorussia

capitalist states: anticipated war between; friendliness toward


Carpathian Ruthenia
Central Committee Information and International Department
Chadayev, Yu. E.
Chamberlain, Neville
Cheka police
Cheron, F. Y.
Chiang Kai-shek
Chicherin, Georgi V
China
Chou En-lai
Chuev, Felix
Churchill, Winston: “iron curtain” speech; on rearmament; and second European front;
warning of Operation Barbarossa
Clausewitz, Carl
Cold War
collective security
Collier’s
Cominform
Comintern: alignment with Kuomintang; disbandment; establishment; global institution of;
Popular Front tactic; on spread of Communism; Stalin’s interest in activities of
Commercial Agreement, German-Soviet
Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD)
Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 86th Congress, First Session (1959)
Communist Information Bureau
Communist International. See Comintern
Communist party
concealment
“Considerations.” See General Staff memorandum (May 15, 1941)
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Cripps, Sir Stafford
Czechoslovakia: abandonment of; alliance with Soviet Union; as potential ally; Soviet role
in invasion of; and Versailles Treaty

Danilov, V. D.
Dardanelles. See Turkish Straits
Davies, Joseph E.
Deane, John R.
deep battle operations
defensism: arguments against; definition of; failure to plan; in indoctrination and
propaganda; and Marxism-Leninism; punishment for; school of thought supporting
Dekanozov, V. G.
Den’ M (M Day) (Suvorov)
Dimitrov, Georgi: with Comintern; description of Popular Front; diary of; knowledge of
Operation Barbarossa; on Soviet relations with Germany
diplomacy: archives on; and conditions for waging war; and industrialization; and
Marxism-Leninism; “new” Soviet
Djilas, Milovan
Djugashvili, Yakov
documentary film
Doroshenko, V. L.
Drugaya voina 1939–1945 (The Other War 1939–1945) (Afanas’iev)
Duclos Letter
Dugas, I. A.
Dvoretsky, Lev

Eastern Europe
Eastern Front (Germany)
Eastern Locarno pact
education. See textbooks
Eisenshtein, Sergei
Engels, Friedrich
England: and collective security agreement; Hitler’s plan to attack; knowledge of
Operation Barbarossa; pacifism of; as potential ally; Soviet relations with (1920s–
1930s); Soviet relations with (1941); Stalin’s attempted negotiations with
Enigma Machine (Ultra)
Estonia
Ethiopia

fascism See also Mussolini, Benito


Feuer, Lewis
Finland: peace treaty with; relationship with Germany; Soviet demand for; Soviet war
against
Firsov, F. I.
Five-Year Plans
France: boundaries of; and collective security agreement; as potential ally; Soviet relations
with; Stalin’s attempted negotiations with
Friendship Pact, Nazi-Soviet
Frunze, M. V.

Galiyev, Sultan
Gareyev, Makhmut
Gelfand, Leon
General Staff memorandum (May 15, 1941): excerpt; on German army; Gorodetsky on; on
surprise attack; as war planning document
Genoa Conference (1922)
George, David Lloyd
Georgia
Germany: admiration of; collaboration with Red Army; Communists in; declared enemy by
Stalin; disinformation used by; dissatisfaction with Versailles Treaty; economic
assistance to Soviet Union; encouragement of expansionism; occupation of Ukraine;
record of enemy preemptions; result of war against Soviet Union; run-up to Operation
Barbarossa; Soviet relations with (1920s–1930s); totalitarianism in; troops on Western
Front. See also Barbarossa, Operation; Nazi-Soviet agreements
glasnost
Goebbels, Josef: admiration of Stalin; diaries of; on German-Soviet cooperation; on
inevitability of war; on opposition to Operation Barbarossa
Goering, Hermann
Golikov, Filipp L
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Gor’kov, Yu. A.
Gorodetsky, Gabriel: on annexation of Poland; on collective security agreement; on
General Staff memorandum (May 15, 1941); on Hess’s flight; on offensism/defensism
argument; on Stalin’s attitude toward Marxism-Leninism
GPU
Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia (Gorodetsky)
Great Fatherland War: attitudes toward; Seven Lessons of; start of; studies of; and weapons
production
Grigorenko, Petr G.
“Groza” (Storm), Soviet offensive-war plan
Guderian, Heinz
Gulag

Haase, Paul
Halder, Franz
Harriman, Averell
Harrison, Richard W.
Haushofer, Karl
Henderson, Sir Neville
Hermann, Joachim
Hess, Rudolf
High Command Headquarters (Stavka)
Hillgruber, Andreas
A History of Russia
Hitler, Adolf: ascent to power; on Hess’s flight; involvement in military affairs; on
nonaggression pact with Soviet Union; on Operation Barbarossa; relationship with
Stalin; and Soviet education methods; Soviet provocation of; underestimation of Soviet
Union; war with Britain
Horn (German representative)
Hughes, E.
Hungary

Ice-Breaker (Suvorov)
ideology. See Marxism-Leninism
Ilyushin, S. V
Indian Ocean
industrialization
internationalism
Iran
Isserson, G. S.
Italy. See also Mussolini, Benito

Japan: as Axis power; expansionism of; Sorge in; Soviet relationship with; threat to
England; and war with United States
Johnston, Eric
Junkers Stuka dive-bomber (Ju-87)

Kaganovich (government official)


Kalinin, Mikhail
Kalugin, Oleg
Kandelaki, David
Karelo-Finnish Soviet Republic
Katyn Forest Massacre
Katyusha
Keitel, W.
Kennan, George F.
Kennan, George V.
Kestring, E.
Khalkin-Gol River plain
Khrushchev, Nikita S.
Kiev Military District (KVO)
Kirponos, Mikhail P.
Klimovskikh, Vladimir E.
Koch, Stephen
Kokoshin, Andrei A.
Korean War (1950–53)
Kork, A. I.
Korobskov, Andrei A.
Kosygin, Alexei
Krestinsky, N. N.
Krivitsky, Walter
Kronstadt Island
Kuomintang
Kursk, Battle of
Kuusinen, Otto V
Kuznetsov, Nikolai A.
Kuznetsov, Nikolai G.
Kvashnin, Anatoly V.
Kwantung Province

Larin, Mikhail V.
Latvia
Lavochkin, S. A.
Leadership Principle
League of Nations
Lebedev, Lev
Lend-Lease aid
Lenin, V. I.: admiration of Germany; on Brest-Litovsk; definition of Western democracy;
disregard of Versailles Treaty; on education; establishment of Comintern; on global
sovietization; on Mussolini; support of collaboration with Germany; United Front tactic;
on U.S.-Japanese war; on war
Leningrad
Life
Lipetsk, Russia
Lithuania
Litvinov, Maxim M.: firing of; on Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact; policy; and relations
with West; termination of Communist activities in U.S.
Look
Lozovsky, S. A.
Ludendorff, Erich von
Luftwaffe
Lutzow
Lytton Commission
Lyulechnik, Vladimir

Machiavelli
Maclean, Donald
Maisky, Ivan
Malenkov, Andrei
Malenkov, S. G.
Malik, Yakov
Manchuria
Manstein, Erich
Mao Tse-tung
Marx, Karl
Marxism-Leninism: as basis of Soviet diplomacy; in education; manifestation of; realist
school on; role in Stalin’s strategy; and thermonuclear war; traditionalist school on
Mein Kampf
Mekhlis, Lev Z.
Mel’tyukhov, M. I.: archives located by; book by; on Marxism-Leninism; on Red Army
purges
memoirists
memorandum. See General Staff memorandum (May 15,1941)
Meretskov, K. A.
Mikoyan, A. I.
Mikoyan, Anastas
Military Encyclopedic Dictionary
Ministry of General and Professional Education of the Russian Federation
Mission to Moscow (Davies)
Mitrokhin Archive
Model, W.
Moldavian SSR
Molotov, Vyacheslav M.: appointment to foreign ministry; on British pacifism; broadcast
of Stalin’s address; on division of territory; on German failure to declare war; on global
sovietization; on May 5 speech; at meeting regarding preemptive strike; at meetings after
Operation Barbarossa; on Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact; on occupation of Poland;
pact with Ribbentrop; on provocation of Hitler; on Quadripartite Axis concept; on
readiness of Red Army; on Stalin’s reaction to Operation Barbarossa; on warning from
China
Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics (Chuev)
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Mongolia
Moscow
“Mr. X” essay
Munich Agreement (1938)
Münzenberg, Willi
Mussolini, Benito
M. V. Frunze—Military Theoretician (Gareyev)
The Myth of the “Ice-Breaker” on the Eve of War (Gorodetsky)

Napoleon
navies
Nazi party
Nazi-Soviet agreements: Boundary and Friendship Treaty (1939); Brest-Litovsk Treaty
(1918); on division of territory; as example of Soviet zigzagging; Friendship Pact;
Hitler’s disregard of; Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; motivations for; Nonaggression Pact
(1939); origins of; preludes to; significance of word order; and Stalin’s behavior; in
textbooks; on trade; Treaty of Berlin (1926)
Nekrich, Aleksandr
Nevezhin, Vladimir A.
New Economic Policy (NEP) (1921)
newsreel appearance
NKVD (Commissariat of Internal Affairs)
Nonaggression Pact, Nazi-Soviet (1939)
Norway

offensism: definition of; and Marxism-Leninism; and Operation Barbarossa; promotion of


in May 5 speech; and propaganda; reason for not using against Germany; school of
thought supporting; secrecy of; Stalin’s use of term. See also preemptive strikes
office log
Ogarkov, N. V.
OGPU
‘On the Plan to Deploy the Strategic Forces of the Soviet in a War Against Germany and Its
Allies,’
Operation Sea Lion
Orwellian Memory Hole
Outer Mongolia

Pavlov, Dmitri G.
Pavlovich, Lavrenti
peaceful coexistence
Pearl Harbor
Petlyakov, V. M.
Philby, Kim
Plato
pocket battleships
Pokrovsky, G. I.
Poland: alliance with Soviet Union; armed expansion into; boundaries of; and Nazi-Soviet
Nonaggression Pact; and offensist/ defensist argument; as potential ally
Polikarpov, N. N.
Politburo
Ponomarev, Boris N.
Popular Front
poputchikestvo (fellow travelership)
Poskrebyshev, Aleksandr N.
POWs
preemptive strikes: documentation of plan; German army record of; recommendation for;
and Red Army deployments; secret conference on. See also offensism
Primakov, Yevgeny M.
propaganda
Prussia
Pugachev, V. S.
Putin, Vladimir

Quadripartite Axis

Radek, Karl
Radzinsky, Edvard
Rapallo Treaty
Raymond, Ellsworth
realist school
Red Air Force
Red Army: collaboration with Germany; deployments on June 22, 1941; effect of
Marxism-Leninism on; errors of; fear of Stalin; indoctrination; offensist nature of;
purges; readiness of; secrecy of; strength of; and withdrawal and desertion
The Red Mikado
Red Navy
Reinsurance Treaty
retreat
Rezun, Viktor Bogdanovich. See Suvorov, Viktor
Ribbentrop, Joachim von: admiration of Soviet Union; on division of territory; on Nazi-
Soviet agreements; negotiations with Japan; relationship with Stalin; on timing of Hitler’s
decision to attack
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer)
RKKA. See Red Army
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Rosenberg, Alfred
Rozengoltz, A. P.
Ruhr, Germany
Rumania
Russian Academy of Sciences
The Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904–1940 (Harrison)
Sakharov, Andrei D.
Sarin, Oleg
Schacht, Hjalmar
schools, public
Schulenberg, Friedrich von: on Czechoslovakia; execution of; on invasion of Poland; leaks
to; Molotov’s complaint to; on Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact
secrecy
Semiryaga, M. I.
Semyonov, K. V.
Shaposhnikov, Boris M.
Shcherbakov, Aleksandr S.
Shirer, William L.
Shostakovich, Dmitri
Shtern, Grigori M.
Silesia
Sindrom Nastupatel ‘noi Voiny (The Syndrome of Offensive War) (Nevezhin)
Slutsky, A.
Social-Democratic parties (SDs)
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander I.
Sorge, Richard
Soviet Military Encyclopedia
Special Tasks (Sudoplatov)
speeches: August 19, 1939 to Politburo; July 3,1941 radio address; May 5, 1941,; May 24,
1945; November 1941
Speidel, Helm
Stalin, Josef: behavior of; involvement in military affairs; Russophilia of
Stalin and Hitler: Dangerous Liaisons
Stalingrad, Battle of
Stavka (High Command Headquarters)
Steinhardt, Lawrence
Sudetenland
Sudoplatov, Pavel: on collective security policy; on conquest of border countries;
publications; on Stalin’s quest for world domination
Sun Tzu
surprise tactics
Suvorov, Alexei V.
Suvorov, Viktor
Svechin, A. A.
Svetlishin, N. A.
The Syndrome of Offensive War (Nevezhin)

tanks
textbooks
Timoshenko, S. K.: on buildup on Western Front; at meeting regarding preemptive strike;
at meetings after Operation Barbarossa; on readiness of Red Army; signing of General
Staff memorandum (May 15, 1941); strategies of
Tokaev, Grigori A.
Topitsch, Ernst
totalitarianism
trade
traditionalist school
Treaty of Berlin (1926)
Triandafillov, Vladimir K.
Trotsky, L. D.
Truman, Harry
Tucker, Robert C.
Tukhachevsky, Mikhail N.
Turkestan
Turkey
Turkish Straits

Ukraine
Uldricks, Theodore J.
Ultra (Enigma Machine)
United Front
United States: economic assistance to Soviet Union; entry into war; as potential ally;
recognition of Soviet Union; subversive activity against; and war with Japan; weapons
production
United States Army orientation material
United States Office of War Information
The USSR Institutions and People: A Brief Handbook for the Use of Officers of the Armed
Forces of the United States

Varga, Yevgeny
Vasilievsky, Alexander
Vasilievsky, M.
Vatutin, Nikolai F.
Ventsel’, D. A.
Versailles Treaty
Vietnam War
Vlasik, Nikolai
VNIIDAD. See All-Russian Scientific-Research Institute for Documents and Archive
Affairs (VNIIDAD)
Volkogonov, Dmitri A.
Voroshilov, K. Ye.

Wagner, Richard
Die Walkiire
war: declaration of; Lenin on; Stalin on; strategies; thermonuclear
war games
warning period
weapons
Weeks, Albert L.
Weimar Germany
Weinberg, Gerhard L.
Weizsaecker, Ernst
Werth, Alexander
Western Front (Russia): in documentary; German troops on; Soviet troops on
Western states
Wilhelm, Kaiser
Willkie, Wendell
Winter War
withdrawal. See retreat
The Working Classes against Fascism (Dimitrov)
The World in the 20th Century
World War II
World War III

Yakir, I. Z.
Yakovlev, Aleksandr N.: on defensism; on Great Fatherland War; on “new” diplomacy; on
offensism; on U.S. as potential Soviet ally
Yakovlev, A. S.
The Year 1941. Documents (Yakovlev)

Zakharov, Matvei V
Zentrale Moskau
Zhdanov, A. A.: archive of; on May 5 speech; promotion of; on Soviet “neutrality”;
strategies of; on use of war to spread Marxism-Leninism
Zhelyabov Textile Factory
Zhigarev, P. F.
Zhukov, Georgi K.: and buildup on Western Front; on historians’ search for truth; at
Khalkin-Gol River plain; at meeting regarding preemptive strike; at meetings after
Operation Barbarossa; on Operation Barbarossa; on readiness of Red Army; signing of
General Staff memorandum (May 15, 1941); strategies of; surprise tactics of; in war
games
Zhukovsky, N. E.
Zhuravchenko, A. N.
Zolotov, V. P.
About the Author

Albert L. Weeks has studied Soviet Russia for more than fifty years,
and he is an expert in the field. He began as translator and editorial
adviser for The Current Digest of the Soviet Press and as translator and
glossary compiler on the classified USAF technical-translation project
for McGraw-Hill. He also translated some of the Smolensk Collection
of official Soviet documents (about Gulag prisoners’ rations) for the
AFL-CIO. During the Cold War, he served as senior soviet analyst for
the U.S. Department of State and Radio Free Europe, Inc. In the late
1950s, he was an editorial assistant at Newsweek magazine where he is
credited with having coined the term “sputnik” to describe the Soviets’
first artificial earth satellite.
He guest-lectured at West Point Military Academy and taught at
New York University for over twenty-five years until he retired in
1989. Currently he is teaching global studies at the Ringling School of
Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. One of his hobbies is watercolor
painting.
Weeks is the author of several books, among them: Reading
American History; The First Bolshevik: A Political Biography of Peter
Tkachev; The Other Side of Coexistence: An Analysis of Russian
Foreign Policy; The Troubled Détente; The Soviet Nomenklatura;
Myths That Rule America; and Soviet and Communist Quotations. His
articles have been published in numerous academic and U.S. military
and intelligence journals.